Yesterday, I announced to my fifth period class that I would be leaving them in capable hands for part of the period while I left to go sing at the graveside service of a dear friend from my church. His daughter and son-in-law are close friends of mine and two of his grandchildren are my former students and currently seniors at our school.
I have the luxury of teaching at Trinity Presbyterian School, whose mission is “to glorify God by providing the highest college preparatory education, while training students in the biblical world and life view, thus enabling them to serve God in spirit, mind and body.” Because of who we are as a school, it is entirely acceptable to say to my class, “I would appreciate your prayers for me as I sing for this family and for them as they grieve the passing of their grandfather.”
It was a very cold day; and singing is best when the body is warm. I was nervous about not being able to sing well outside and also about being able to keep my emotions in check when I saw the faces of these people that I love and the casket of this fine man who was our first Sunday School teacher when my husband and I moved to Montgomery eighteen years ago. I did not want my poor performance to be a distraction at such a sacred moment for this family. Frankly, the tension was building in my body and I didn’t know if I could get out four verses of “Amazing Grace” under the circumstances. So, needing all the help I could get, I asked for the prayers of my ninth graders.
“We could get in a circle and pray right now,” one bright-eyed, warm-hearted girl said. It caught me by surprise. What courage! We were already conveniently sitting in a circle, and so I said, “Ok, would one of you like to lead?” I was thinking I’d pray myself, setting an example to them that I ‘walk my talk’. Before I ended the question, the same girl who suggested it piped up, “I’ll do it.” And so within seconds, I found myself surrounded by a circle of fifteen-year-olds with heads bowed with one voice praying aloud offering gratitude for the gifts of the day, the school, each other, and asking for comfort and peace for the family we all know and love and for strength for me as I sang.
The very act itself, the sound of her voice, the willing spirits of every soul in that circle gave me the gift I needed to walk to my car and drive to the cemetery. For those who think today’s teenagers are too tied to their social media, too self-centered and spoiled, don’t have the right priorities and incapable of leadership in our culture, think again. Come visit my class. There are some courageous, compassionate, selfless young people who’ll step up when the need presents itself. They have much to offer us old folks if we ask them.