Yesterday I filled in for Ellen and taught the 5-9 year old Sunday School group. Our topic was thankfulness. I like to tell Bible stories like any other story. I want to make it seem real.
I told the children about a horrible disease and described the pain and mutilation it caused. I explained its contagiousness and how, years ago, there was no cure. I told them how the towns people, afraid of catching the disease, banished all of the infected people to the rocks and caves outside the town. I explained how the people had to beg for food near the highways and care for each other. I described their homelessness, and lovelessness, and their separation from their families while they got sicker and eventually died of the disease.
My students were attentive, entering into the pain and suffering of these people. Before I finished the story I stood up and told them we were going to act out the rest of it. For the first time I told them that the disease was called leprosy and they were the lepers. I set them up on the side of the road and then I played various people walking along the highway. While they pleaded for help I scurried past them plugging my nose.
Finally, though, I played Jesus passing by and I reached out and touched each one of them and told them they were healed. They leaped for joy and cheered and hugged one another and I told them they could go back to the town and to their families. In all of the excitement, one boy grabbed my hand, shook it, and said, "Thank you!" I walked on past them and sat down.
They all took their seats and I told them that they had done exactly the same thing that was done in the Bible story. Of all the lepers who were healed, only one thanked Jesus. I was amazed that God gave us such an accurate picture of how the true story played out. I had not told the children what was going to happen and I hadn't clued in the one boy to make it all work out. The children did not miss the significance of what had happened, either.
I gave them all the commission to look for ways to show thanks. I told them to try to notice how many things others do for them and to thank them for it. I heard two 'thank yous' last night and got one this morning from my nine year old. I think it's the first time I've ever heard, "Mom, thank you for emptying the dishwasher."