Every Friday night I go to the Pittsburgh Chinese Church. For the past two years or so I’ve been teaching a class there—no, not English—a Bible class for Kindergarten to Second Graders. They’re good kids. (And, as you can tell, they really like it when I pull out my camera phone.)
The girls are really sweet and affectionate and always want to sit by me. They even went so far as to start bringing water bottles to class because I am notorious for bringing one every where I go.
The boys, on the other hand…I feel like I’m always telling them stop. Stop talking, stop running, stop hitting…you get the idea. It’s not that they’re bad: they’re just really energetic. And I just know that if I could keep their attention for more than thirty seconds, they might learn something. They are very smart. (In all fairness, I have to ask the girls to stop talking just as frequently. They just obey quicker.)
These boys are also really funny. I think some of them have secret aspirations for being stand-up comedians. They each like to try to crack everyone up. And more than once in a while, they end up cracking me up, too.
This week I was giving a lesson on telling the truth and how truth is important. For an illustration, I had a paper doll named “Joe.” On one side, Joe was frowning because he told his mom a lie. To emphasize his sad state, I colored his shirt blue and gray (not that I have anything against those colors; it’s just that sometimes my artsy, symbolic side gets carried away) and gave him green cords. On the other side, Joe is smiling because Jesus has set him free from sin. This time I colored his shirt bright yellow and orange—again, for emphasis—and put him in blue jeans.
Well, when I “freed” Joe (he was stuck in a “sin” envelope) I showed the class the happy side. I asked them why Joe was happy now.
And Andrew (who is in second grade) said: “Because he got a new shirt and new pants.”
Now Andrew is a very smart kid, and I know he knew the “right” answer. But I have to tell you, after a surprised pause, I burst out laughing.
“Well,” Andrew explained, “I like his new clothes better. I don’t really like green pants.” I laughed even harder. I had to borrow a scrap of paper from Joie, the girl next to me, so I could write it down that instant. It may not sound as funny now, but take my word for it. It’s just one of those things that happens in my class.
I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised when they come out with things like that. I’m not surprised when Andrew gives me the “Sunday School” answer; he goes to a Christian school and Sunday School and his parents are active in the church—in fact, Mandy, his mom, coordinates the Friday evening classes for the kids and teaches as well.
The truth is, though, if you ask kids a question, especially in a bible class they will either give you the “God” answer, or the most obvious answer. Most of my kids know the “Jesus” answers, so I usually try to get them to dig a little deeper and think a little more personally about it. I don’t know that I really succeed; they are, after all, only about six or seven.
I don’t get frustrated with them if they don’t use their reasoning skills. I just try to challenge them. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that not everything is deep. I mean, I’m big into symbolism and meaning, and I’m sure I could use the anecdote for a sermonette about how when we come to Christ, we do in a sense get change of clothes; we are told to put on things like humility and love like garments.
But that’s not what Andrew meant. He was speaking form that gut-level simplicity and honesty that somehow, I find myself admiring. The truth is, I wouldn’t really want to wear bright green pants, either. That’s probably why I found it so funny. He looked past my symbolism and got to what really mattered to him.
I don’t really want to go into the whole “child-like faith” thing. Even though I really believe it and it’s a big part of why I love working with kids, it’s become a bit cliché to bring that up when sharing a funny kid anecdote. That’s not really what this is about, anyway. It’s really about how funny kids are, and how refreshing their simplicity can be. It’s funny because we think we have the world in better perspective when we’re older and understand the “real world.”
I just think that sometimes, maybe it’s the other way around, and kids have the better perspective. Of course something more important happened to Joe than a change of clothes. But come on, now. Would you want to be wearing a blue and gray shirt with kelly green corduroy pants? Especially after such a special and spiritual experience like Joe’s? I didn’t think so.