“For God so loved the world (you), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever (you, me, everyone, anyone) believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
The third grade is a wonderful time in a child’s life. It’s that time when little boys begin to notice little girls; when they begin to realize that there’s something different about them . . . something wonderful. So, they begin to try to get their attention by pulling their hair and punching them in the arms. You know, to show them how special they are. It’s how little boys express themselves.
It was certainly a memorable time in my life.
I was a student at Williams Avenue Elementary. And, as a little boy, I was now beginning to notice girls. Not the girls my age. Instead, I had my eyes on a greater prize: Miss Parsons, the music teacher. She was smart. She was talented. She was kind. And, to top it off, she was beautiful. Childhood crush . . . she was my kind of woman!
Rhonda’s story was different. Because . . . well . . . Rhonda was different.
Rhonda lived around the block from me and was in my third grade class. She came from a home where life was anything but easy. Mom and Dad lived their lives without much regard for her. Or at least that’s how it seemed. She was heavier than the rest of us and wasn’t taught much about personal hygiene. She didn’t have the nicest of clothes and often whatever she wore on Monday she would still be wearing on Friday. Needless to say, we noticed, and we let her know how different she was. Children can be cruel.
Life can be tough when you’re different. Life was tough for Rhonda.
Not only did Miss Parsons notice, she cared.
We often had activities in music class that required a partner. Whether it was sharing an autoharp, dancing or singing a duet in our choir, the Melody Makers, we’d have to partner off. Sometimes those partners were assigned, other times we’d choose.
All the boys would line up against one wall and the girls on the other. From the first boy to the last partners would be chosen. That was a process that could be exhilarating. If you were in the front of the line you had the pick of the litter. It was a process that could be excruciating: If you were at the end of the line you were stuck with whomever wasn’t chosen. The process was humiliating. Rhonda was always that one not chosen.
Her body language began to tell the story. Whenever it was time to partner off, she’d take her place with the other girls. She’d stand at the end of the line with her shoulders slumped, head down realizing that she was going to hear Miss Parsons force the last boy to be her partner.
I can’t imagine how that felt. Sure, there were plenty of times I wasn’t first choice and I know at least once or twice I was chosen last. But, every time? I can’t begin to understand what that would have done for one’s self-image at such a young age. Unwanted. Overlooked. Last choice. Rhonda.
I was helping Miss Parsons between classes one school day. (I always found a reason to be around Miss Parsons!) As I began to wrap things up so I could get to my class she asked me to do her a favor. Of course! I’d do anything she wanted me to do! Remember, I had my eye on her. But I wasn’t ready for what she said next:
“Next time we have a partner time in class, I want you to pick Rhonda to be your partner. Will you do that?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Didn’t she know what she was asking of me? Remember, this is the third grade. Little boys and girls are beginning to notice each other. If I partner with Rhonda that will be the end! How could such an ugly request come from such a beautiful mouth? No way, no thanks, I’d never do that. I didn’t really care for Miss Parsons anymore.
I turned to storm out of the room as she continued:
“But Billy, it’s what a Christian would do…”
I knew she was right. She knew I knew. I came from a church going family. But, to be honest, I didn’t care.
Time passed. I don’t know how long. Eventually it was time. Today in music class we would have a partner activity. Miss Parsons lined all the girls up along the wall. Rhonda took her place at the end of the line, head down, shoulders slumped. Then, she lined the boys up along the opposite wall. And, for some reason, today was my lucky day. I was right in the front. I was first. I’d have first choice.
I heard her voice: “Billy, pick your partner.”
My heart was pounding as I looked up and down the line. I saw Lisa, Lori and Lana. I saw all the girls whom I wanted to choose as my partner and was trying to figure out whose day I was going to make.
Then, I saw Rhonda.
Head down, shoulders slumped and my heart began to pound faster. So, I made my choice:
Do you know how special you are to Him?
I want you to remember this today . . .
God looked across time and spoke your name.
How will you respond?
You’ve been chosen.