Sister Bonnie began class with roll call.
A stocky, tough-looking boy with dark scruffy hair tromped into the classroom.
He crossed his arms and tapped his foot impatiently. George caused a lot of problems. Sister Bonnie managed him well, in spite of his bad attitude and actions. None of the children liked him much. Mainly Ann tried to avoid George. She, like many of the other children, decided it was best to leave him alone, or else they’d be asking for trouble.
“Do you have your book?” Asked Sister Bonnie.
“No,” he huffed. Sister Bonnie glanced around the room. Ann felt her gaze rest on the only free desk, the one to Ann’s left. She winced as Sister Bonnie said, “Looks like there’s a seat left over there, George. Ann, can you share your quarterly?” Ann complied unwillingly. “Yes, ma’am.” George smirked as he went by and sat at the desk. Sister Bonnie thanked Ann, finished roll call, and began the lesson.
Ann held her quarterly out to the left a little so George could see. “I don’t even think he’s looking, or cares,” she thought. She was not going to look to find out. To her surprise, George took the other side of the quarterly. Sister Bonnie continued relating the lesson verses in her lively way and asking her students questions so that soon, Ann forgot all about George.
Unfortunately, as the lesson progressed, Ann’s grip on the Sunday School book lessened. George saw his chance…and let go of his side of the book. Ann jumped as she felt the book slip and made a grab at it, but it was too late. Flop! The odd sound and Ann’s quick movements caught the attention of the class. Sister Bonnie started again, “Gideon trusted…” but George said disgustedly to Ann, “What did’ya do that for?” By this time Ann realized that George had dropped the book on purpose. She bent down to pick it up, face burning with anger and embarrassment. Sister Bonnie began again, “Gideon trusted God to…” Ann bent over to retrieve the book. Just as Ann lifted the edge of the cover, George’s dirty shoe stepped firmly on the edge. This was more then Ann could take! Ripping the book from his foot, she hit his leg with it, yelling, “Why can’t you just leave people alone?” She stopped, horrified at herself. George burst out laughing, joined by the rest of the class. Who knew Ann Birky would ever do such a thing like that? Hit a boy! Ann buried her head in her arms and cried.
Sister Bonnie had never had such a disturbance in class. “Boys, girls!” she called above the din. The class quieted down and turned their attention back to her. “Ann and George, I want to talk to you both after class.” Ann raised her tear-stained face as Sister Bonnie continued the lesson quickly to make up for lost time.
As the rest of class filed out, Ann walked up to the teacher’s desk with a nervous, knotted feeling in her stomach. George stood there already. Sister Bonnie found herself looking at a frowning girl and a smirking boy. “Well,” she began, folding her hands on her desk and leaning forward slightly, “What was going on during class? Ann?” Ann took a deep breath. “He…he dropped the book, and when I went to pick it up, he stepped on the corner so I couldn’t!”
“Did you ask him to take his foot off?” Ann looked at the floor. “No, ma’am,” she said weakly. “What could you have done if you did ask him to take his foot off and he still didn’t do it?” Sister Bonnie questioned. Ann knew her teacher’s policy. “I should have raised my hand and asked you about it.” Sister Bonnie nodded, “That’s right. Try to make peace on your own, but if the other person isn’t listening, come to me. George?” His smirk ceased at the tone of her voice. A cloud of grumpiness covered his face. Sister Bonnie continued, “George, what did you do to Ann?” Shifting his feet, he muttered, “Dropped the book and stepped on it.”
“How did that make Ann feel?” George side-glanced at Ann. He stared at a fake purple daisy on the desk. Finally he mumbled, “Bad.” Sister Bonnie turned back to Ann. “What did you do to George?”
“Yelled and hit him.”
“How did that make him feel?”
“I think you two should apologize.” Ann and George didn’t look at each other, but they both said, “Sorry.” Only Ann replied, “I forgive you.” Then they were dismissed.
On Friday, Ann inquired, “Mom, what should you do if someone kept being mean to you on purpose?” Mother looked up from her sewing. “Who is it?”
“It’s George Munoz from my Sunday School class.” Looking confused, Mother said, “George doesn’t sound familiar. But he’s making trouble for you?”
“Yes,” sighed Ann, “Last Sunday he…” Ann filled her in on the details, but only telling of George’s misbehavior. Mother stopped sewing. “Why didn’t you tell your father and I about this last Sunday?” Ann looked down at her feet. “Well…” she stalled. “Well, what?” Mother raised her eyebrows. “Well…when he stepped on my book, I pulled it out and kind of hit him and yelled at him.” The last few words were said very quickly and just above a whisper.
“You hit him with your book!” Mother sat in silence for a moment as Ann wished that she had never complained about George. “Ann, I’m not surprised that you’re having trouble with him if you’re acting like that. Even if he was mean first, that does not make it right for you to be mean back. What did Sister Bonnie say?” Ann told her how the talk with Sister Bonnie went. Mother nodded, “That’s all good, but I wish she would have told me about it. I’ll have to call her.” She paused to rip out a seam. “Ann, I think we need to answer the question you asked me earlier, ‘What should you do?’ Why don’t you get out your Bible and we’ll look up some verses about this.” Ann obeyed and retrieved the small, leather-bound Bible from her nightstand. “Okay,” Mother began, “What verses can you think of about being kind?” Ann thought for a moment. “There’s ‘Be ye kind’. And ‘Love your enemies’. Like we had in our memory verse.” Mother smiled in approval. “Very good. Pick one to look up, probably the ‘Be ye kind’ verse, because you should have the other one memorized.” Ann turned to the verse in her Bible and read, ” ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Mother listened as she cut a piece of elastic. Snip! “So, what does that mean to you?” She asked. Ann read the verse again to herself. “If God forgives me, then I should forgive others. I did that, though.” Mother looked at Ann. “Did you really forgive him last Sunday if you are still complaining to me about him today? Real forgiveness means that you do your best to forget, too.” Ann didn’t say anything, but she quickly asked God to forgive her for still complaining. Mother continued, “You’re right, though, true forgiveness is a way to be kind. What about your other verse?” Ann recited soberly from memory, ” ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
“Thank you, Ann-” Mother was cut short by baby Samuel’s cries. “Oh, the baby’s awake. Can you run and get him?” Ann jumped up. “Sure!” She soon returned, carrying the cubby-cheeked, blonde-haired boy into the sewing room. Mother put her sewing aside. “How’s my little sunshine? Did you have a good nap?” She caught him up as he leaned over Ann’s arms to her, cooing happily. “Okay,” Mother reviewed, “God is kind to us so we should be kind to others. We should forgive others just like God forgives us. Love your enemies, do good and pray for them. So. What is something you can do sometime to show kindness to George?” Ann looked at a crack in the ceiling. She studied the pattern on the tablecloth. Samuel babbled on. “I don’t know,” she finally answered. “What can I do for a boy that’s not embarrassing?” Mother pondered that thought for a moment. “How about this: pray about it first. Then, if you see a chance to do something that’s not embarrassing, do it. If you can’t find anything, just keep praying about it.” Ann came around the table and gave her mother a hug (Samuel wanted one, too!). “Thanks, Mom. You’re so smart. Maybe I’ll think of something before Sunday.”
It really wasn’t until the end of Sunday School class that Ann saw her opportunity. Every other month, Sister Bonnie gave the students a chance to recite as many memory verses as they could from the past eight Sundays. If a student could say five verses, he or she could choose between a nice little notepad or a colorful pencil. The students enjoyed using them in church and school; Sister Bonnie liked seeing the effort to memorize scripture.
This morning Ann was doing well, she had said five verses already. “Very good, Ann,” congratulated Sister Bonnie, You may choose something from the drawer now.” She called the next student to recite quietly beside her as Ann went to the other side of the desk. Ann knew exactly what she wanted. There it was! As she reached for the sparkly pink pencil, her hand stopped. Right next to the pink pencil lay a red one with yellow splashes of color on it. “George would like that one…” Ann cringed under the thought. “Why should I give George my hard-earned pencil? He never even tries to memorize any verses! He…” Her excuses faded as she remembered her mother’s words. “If you see a chance…do it.” Ann picked up the red pencil and went back to her desk.
George was not sitting next to her today. Ann took a small piece of paper from her desk and wrote, “George- Sorry for being mean last week. Please take the pencil. Ann.” She folded the paper in half, wrote “George” on the front, and laid the pencil in the fold. When class was dismissed and the students were making their way to the door, Ann gave the bundle to George. He looked at her strangely, but she just turned and slipped out the door.
Ann didn’t expect to hear anything from him, but after service she was surprised by “Ann?” from behind her. She turned quickly to see George standing there, looking awkward, digging the toe of his shoe into the blue carpet. He looked around nervously. “Uh, thanks for the pencil. Sorry.” He left as quickly as he had come.
Ann was glad. She had been kind, and now George might be nicer, too! “Thank you for helping me make the right choice, Lord.“