“I know! I know!” exclaims Johnny with barely suppressed excitement. His arm flies skyward in short, staccato bursts of wild energy, calculated to draw maximum attention from Teacher. His voice breaks beneath the burden of knowledge too vast to be borne by one small boy. His body quivers with this weight of understanding. He must be chosen to share! He MUST!
Johnny spares a glance toward his comrades. Are they showing the respect due him? Have they bowed to his superior intellect? Do they recognize his expertise? Have they slumped into their former criss-cross-applesauce position on the carpet, acknowledging his formidable intelligence, allowing him to take his rightful place — on centre stage?
They all have their hands in the air too. Rats! Johnny comes up on his knees and wiggles his fingers higher, using his free arm to prop up the flagging one. His face contorts as he takes on the appearance of a drowning man in a sea of neglect and painful sorrow.
“Alright, Johnny,” Teacher says with a laugh. “I see your hand is up. What’s the answer to my question?”
“Question?” says Johnny. He falls back with a “huff” of surprise. A puzzled frown knits his brow. He is a former shadow of himself, a deflated mass of indecision and doubt.
There was a question? He taps a tiny finger on his temple. What strange sorcery was this, anyway? (The pressures of first grade are so demanding.)
“Yes,” says Teacher, her smile becoming a trifle fixed, her eyes ever-so-slightly glazing over. “Didn’t you have your hand waving in the air so I’d pick you to answer the question?”
“I don’t know,” mumbles Johnny, a beaten man. “I forget.”
“That’s okay,” Teacher’s smile radiates benevolence. “We all forget sometimes.”
But, just before she moves on to the next student, Johnny revives! His eyes brighten, his body leaps to attention.
“I remember,” he shouts. Then, disregarding this ‘question’ nonsense the teacher is on about, he recalls what he really wanted to say. The sole purpose for his need to speak at this critical moment in time. His true calling, as it were. And after a slight pause for dramatic effect, he says …
“When’s home time?”
Last week, a special speaker came to our school. This talented magician delivered lessons on showing kindness, empathy and compassion to others by filling their buckets with positive words or thoughtful deeds. After his magic act was over, the floor was opened up for questions.
There were the predictable queries.
“How long have you been doing magic?”
“How did you do that trick with the rabbit?”
“Can I pet your bird?
But then there was a most unexpected question. Actually, more of a random statement than anything. I loved it.
A tiny hand was lifted, and a shrill voice rose above the shuffling of many bottoms on the floor. The man shushed the restless crowd, and a little girl spoke.
“My mom is making tomato soup for lunch.”
It’s hard to follow a line like that. And nearly impossible to respond to it other than to offer some form of congratulation and drop it, fast.
Does anyone ever know all the answers to the questions in life? No.
But, I think we can all agree on the importance of knowing when it’s time to go home and what’s for lunch.