As a brand-new convert of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was extremely naive and largely clueless about everything. It did not occur to me, even once, that accepting a call to teach a Primary class of 23 Sunbeam children all by myself, including two sets of identical twins and one child thoroughly failing her parent's attempts at potty training, would be daunting at best, disastrous at worst. With due credit, I did have a co-teacher, but so infrequent was her attendance, that I don't even remember her name.
Immediately enchanted with these adorable 3-year-olds, we took to each other like milk and honey. They were thrilled to see me and displayed their affection quite openly. Across the LDS chapel, I would hear shouted, "There's my teacher!" And as they arrived to Primary, they would "fight" over who would get to sit next to me. Oh, how it did wonders for my 19-year-old heart!
Things were going smoothly — if tending 23 3-year-olds in a 10- by 12-foot room can be considered smooth — until one fateful Sunday. Before then, our weekly excitement consisted of an almost predictable tinkling accident by the previously mentioned girl-in-training, and the usual toddler behaviors of abundant wiggling and hugging, impromptu boo boo storytelling, occasional Crayon eating and a whole lot of "look at me!"
That fateful day was a glorious summer Sabbath day in beautiful Alaska and my Primary lesson was "I Am Thankful for Animals." As it would happen, a friend's dog had recently had puppies, and as an inspired teacher, I thought it would be incredibly effective if the children could actually see and touch a live animal rather than simply look at a picture. My friend happily agreed to meet us on the chapel lawn at a specific time with her box of puppies.
Our Mormon chapel was one of the old '60s, two-story styles with the Primary classes in the basement. This would require that we navigate the stairwell to get to the lawn, with a door both at the bottom and at the top.
But being clueless, it never occurred to me that it might be tricky. Not surprisingly, my co-teacher was not in attendance that day. So at the appointed time, all 23 children and I went up the stairwell and out to the lawn. Puppies and children — there's no better mix for happiness! My lesson was very well-received and truly, to that point, it could not have gone better.
Things were a little different on the way back to the classroom. The children started down the stairwell, and I instructed them to stop and wait at the bottom. I brought up the tail to ensure that they were all accounted for. My intent was to then meet them at the bottom and open the door so that we could all reverently return to our classroom together.
Ha! As the last child stepped into the stairwell, I followed behind her, closed the door ... and tripped. Down I fell, desperately grasping for the railing, knocking down child after child as I tumbled to the bottom. Cries of pain and bewilderment cascaded down with me. Even the children untouched by the movement of my plunging body sensed the heightened drama and began to cry along with the others.
Their wailing, and my ineffective attempts to console them, echoed in the stairwell — and likely throughout the building. It seemed like years, but was probably only seconds, before stern-faced Brother Piper, our Sunday School president, opened the door and with a stunned expression gazed upon the utter chaos. I would quickly learn that underneath his sternness was the tender heart of a grandfather. Somehow we untangled the mess, soothed the ruffled feathers and returned to the classroom only slightly shaken.
Remarkably, I wasn't released from my calling. Nor did the children's loyalty waiver from the unintended assault. I did notice that the Primary presidency checked in on me more frequently and that, no surprise, subsequent inspirational direction tended toward indoor activities.
For me, this was just the first opportunity of many to serve in a capacity beyond my capabilities and to have the precious privilege of being entrusted by the Lord to hold firm one small portion of the kingdom.
Who would have guessed that a fall down the stairs was really just a step in the right direction!
Nancy L.B. Lundgreen is a Tangent, Ore., resident and stay-at-home mom of three. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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