In the 5th Grade, as I was leaving the classroom after a day that had not gone very well, Mrs. Rawl called me over to her desk. Since it had been a crummy day, I assumed I was in some sort of trouble. When I approached her desk, she got up and put her arm around me and said, “Robert, I just want you to know that, out of all my students, all 35 of them, you are my favorite. There’s something about you that is very special and I just wanted to tell you that.” My whole day turned around rather dramatically. Suddenly all the things that were bothering me were gone and I left school with brand new confidence.
A couple weeks later, as the last bell sounded and we were all leaving the classroom, I heard Mrs. Rawl say to John Summerour, “John I need to see you before you leave.” From outside the classroom, I heard Mrs. Rawl say, “John, I just want you to know that, out of all my students, all 35 of them, you are my favorite. There’s something about you that is very special and I just wanted to tell you that.”
I’m pretty sure Mrs. Rawl said that same thing to all 35 of us in the class that year. Somehow she was the kind of person who could convince me that I was her favorite and that everybody else was too. Both of those messages were good ones for me to hear.
Typically we have to think less of others in order to think more highly of ourselves. At some level we just don’t believe that there is enough of what we need in life to go around. We get jealous when others have good things happen to them. We rise and fall with how well things are going in our lives. It’s rare when we can feel that we have value in and of ourselves and know, at the same time, that everyone else does too.
This week, in our Vacation Bible School, the children are learning about the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite. His brothers resented him for that. Joseph may not have really believed it himself because he kept bragging to his brothers about his favored status. Had he really known his value, he probably would have kept his mouth shut. As with most good stories, Joseph and his brothers go through a lot of struggle but, in the end, they are reconciled. The brothers cause Joseph much pain but Joseph is eventually able to forgive them. Joseph becomes a loving brother instead of a self-centered brat.
It is not my experience that adults learn this message of our value easily. We carry insecurities around with us all our lives. Knowing I am loved and have value and knowing that others are loved and have value is a truth we all forget and need to be reminded of. It’s basically the whole message Jesus comes to give the world.
It’s hard to get adults to let down their guard enough to hear the loving message of Jesus Christ. It’s a message the Episcopal Church is committed to proclaiming loud and clear. This week we’re trying to teach our younger children this simple truth of God’s love for all creation. Maybe a few adults will pick up on it too.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.