I grew up attending church almost every Sunday. My mother was raised Lutheran and my father had not gone to church as a child; therefore, the compromise was that my brother and I would attend a church which would have an interesting “speaker” pastor and great music. This way, Mom was happy we were getting churched, and Dad wouldn’t be bored.
Immediately, when we started going on a regular basis, my mother placed me in the choir. I was in third grade. I’m not sure if I could carry a tune at that age, or if my mom just thought it was the right thing to do – but that was to be my thing. Stacey = choir girl.
Choir was the special place where I met all of my friends. Actually, some of them I even sang with all the way through high school. Church choir was where I learned how to sing, that I could sing a LOT louder than most other kids, and was an excellent place to mess around.
So each Sunday, after learning the music – which took me no time – I flipped into class clown mode. Several other friends, who were hilarious, kept each other giggling incessantly every Sunday.
This unfortunately crossed over into Sunday school. I clearly remember Sunday school teachers barking at me to quit messing around and pay attention, but that just made me laugh more. I was a real pain in the butt, and to those who attempted to teach me anything about religion, thank you and I’m terribly sorry I was so rude. But on the other hand, I did polish my comedy skills.
With that said, I learned almost nothing about the bible in 8 years of attending church. I’m not really exaggerating. OK, I did learn every hymn and religious choral arrangement for children and adults – so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
When I became an adult, and moved to a bigger city; I tried to broaden my horizons. However, it wasn’t until after a few pitfalls.
One day when I was working as a pediatric nurse, a child came into the clinic with his mother. Out of habit, I always looked at the child first and addressed them, so as to form a bond and to gain their trust. This time, I didn’t even look up at the parent before my maternal nature took over.
As I leaned into the child, I said, “You have a little smudge on your forehead.” My arm was going to brush back the kid’s hair to show the dirt spot to the mother, when she yelled, “It’s Ash Wednesday!”
All I heard was “Wednesday,” but was so startled that the woman had yelled at me for trying to clean her dirty little kid. Now I’m embarrassed I didn’t know what Ash Wednesday was. Guess I might have listened just a bit in Sunday school, but it was too late for that.
I said, “Yes, Wednesday. He has some dirt on his…”
Then she grabbed her child, to protect him from the heathen nurse with the tissue. She was obviously more frustrated than I was, and I was getting pretty ticked by how ridiculous she was acting over a muddy forehead.
The mother noticed I wasn’t catching on, so she spoke to me as if I were deaf, “YOU KNOW…IT’S LENT.”
I answered calmly and quietly, “No, it’s just a smudge of dirt or something – not lint.”
Well, you can imagine the frustration of this woman. She wiped the back of her hand across her forehead to brush aside her bangs, and that is when I saw the matching smudge. The mother’s, however, was clearly in the shape of a cross.
I felt all of the blood in my body surge from the bottom half to my neck and then my face. I was too young to be having a hot flash, but I wasn’t certain I wasn’t dying.
I’m not sure how I managed to escape the room, but I do know that I traded with another nurse to take that patient. I was too mortified to face that family again.
After that episode, I began to learn more about all religions. As a nurse, I wanted to be prepared to understand and respect all people’s beliefs. No more wiping off of blessed ashes.
So for those of you who don’t celebrate Lent; hopefully, you can learn from my mistake. Also, here’s a tip for you: there are going to be a lot of cranky drivers on the roads over the next month – people who have given up chocolate and/or wine for Lent.
So we better be extra kind on the roads…you never know who’s in the car next to you.
God bless us every one!