By: Sister Marie-Aimee, O.C.D.
A few years ago, I was teaching 7th grade in one of our elementary schools. One night at recreation, a sister shared about the time one of her first graders declared to his classmates that Kobe Bryant was his dad. The other children laughed at him but he insisted through his tears that it was really true. She looked down into his bright blue eyes, taking in his pale skin and blond hair, and wondered how to explain to a first grader the impossibility of such a claim. She wisely called home. His mom answered the phone and sister shared the reason for the call. The young woman started to laugh and quickly explained that she had given her husband a Kobe Bryant jersey for his birthday and he had been wearing it often; Hence the little boy’s belief that it was his dad’s name. As sister shared this story at the table, we all chuckled and I thanked God that I taught the older students who don’t present so many “how to explain this” moments. I love young children but the thought of thirty-five six year olds, all day, in one room leaves me feeling very grateful to be teaching junior high.
A few days after sister shared that story I was supervising my 7th graders at the benches during lunch. Other classes were also eating as the teachers took turns supervising them. I was chatting with my girls while they ate their food when I felt a tug on the sleeve of my habit. I looked down to see a first grader standing next to me. He held up his orange and said, “Sister, will you please open this for me?” We walked down to the other end of the lunch area where the first graders were sitting. I stood by their
table and peeled his orange conscious that all the other first graders were watching my every move. As soon as I handed the peeled orange to him and turned to go, a dozen hands flew up in the air. Each hand held an orange. “Mine too, Sister.” “Me too.” “Can you open mine?” I sighed and turned around again. Whoever included a whole orange with the hot lunch has never eaten with first graders, I thought to myself.
As I started to peel orange number two, I asked the children to tell me their names. We went around the table and when we got to the last boy who was on the end of the bench next to me, he looked up at me and grinned, saying, “My name’s Samuel.*” Then with a sweeping gesture of his arm that took in all the little boys at the table, he said to me, “theys all my brothers.” I slowly looked around the table, seeing blue eyes and brown ones, sandy hair and jet black hair, and a wide variety of skin tones represented. I also saw every small head at the table nodding in agreement. My heart sank as I looked back into Samuel’s earnest dark brown eyes and remembering the Kobe Bryant incident, thought, “now why didn’t I stay at the junior high table?” He must have seen the question in my eyes because before I could open my mouth he said happily, “sister, theys all my brothers cause of Jesus.” I smiled, partly from relief, as the other boys agreed. Just then one of the first grade girls ran past the table. “Yeah,” piped up another pint sized evangelizer, “and she’s our sister!”
As adults we can make things so complicated. We look at other human beings and see their skin color or the clothes they are wearing or any number of external characteristics, and we categorize and label and mentally judge based on all the things we “know” about them because of what we see. That day at the lunch table, a six year old reminded me that relationships really don’t have to be all that complicated, after all: “They’s all our brothers and sisters.” Maybe I should visit the first grade table more often!
* = denotes names have been changed to protect privacy
This story and many others are found in the Carmelite Sisters’ short-story book called “Moments of Grace”. If you wish to obtain a copy of the book, please visit: