I love to teach the children at the church I attend. They are always so full of life, and I learn a lot from them. But I always think they teach me more than I teach them.
This last Sunday, teaching the five-year-olds, was no different. My lesson was on honesty, but before we could get to it, we had to hear what had happened to everyone all week. I noticed something different about Cassie.
“Cassie,” I exclaimed, “you appear to be missing a tooth.”
She grinned wide and said, pointing to her mouth, “Actually, I am missing two teeth.”
We, of course, all had to look, and indeed, Cassie had lost two teeth.
“Did you get lots of money?” Kelton inquired.
Cassie nodded, and told all about getting four quarters for each tooth.
“Four quarters!” my own little daughter said in shock. “The tooth fairy only leaves us two when we lose a tooth.”
I thought this might be a good time to get back to the lesson, but the children weren’t ready yet.
One of the little girls insisted she had heard a friend of hers say she got eight quarters for each of her teeth.
I said that maybe it was harder for that little girl to lose her teeth, so she needed more.
One of the children had to tell us all about how their dog got hit by a car and, though it lived, it got a whole bunch of teeth knocked out. “And,” he finished triumphantly, “it didn’t get any quarters at all.”
I was quick to point out that a dog wouldn’t really know what to do with a quarter anyway, so the dog tooth fairy would probably bring bones.
I now saw a way to turn back to the lesson, “I have a story about a dog. Do you want to hear it?”
They said they did, so I made up a story about a boy who promised his Mother that if he could get a puppy, he would take care of it. “But one night, he was busy playing with his friends, and he forgot. After he went to bed, the puppy started to cry because it was hungry. When the boy’s mother asked him if he had fed the puppy, he said he had.”
All of the children agreed that it was a very bad thing to do. “So,” I asked, “what should he have done.”
Every hand went up, and I was glad to be back to the lesson. I called on the first child.
“He should have put the puppy outside so his mother wouldn’t have heard it.”
“Well,” I said, “I suppose he could have done that, but it wouldn’t have solved the problem.” I called on another child.
“He could have made his little sister feed it.”
Not daring to let anyone else answer, I mentioned that the honest thing to do would have been to tell his mother that he had not fed the puppy, and then get up and feed it.
“But what if it was dark and he stepped in something the puppy left on the floor?”
I didn’t even want to try and answer that question, so I just told some more stories about honesty, with similar results from the children. Finally, as we were getting toward the end of the hour, their answers were getting closer to being on target.
“…So, when Allison broke the lamp, what should she have done?”
“Told her mother the truth,” they all answered spontaneously with great triumph and exuberance.
I was feeling good about the lesson we had just finished, feeling I had really taught them a lot. “So,” I said in conclusion, “will you always try to tell the truth?”
They all agreed they would.
“Will you always try to tell the truth too?” Briana asked me.
I nodded. “Of course I will.”
“Good,” she said. Then she stood and put her little hands on her hips, narrowed her eyes and looked directly at me.
“Is there really a tooth fairy?” she asked.
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com)