“Parents, visitors, teachers, let me present to you Jimmy Costernation. Jimmy, come on out here and join me on the platform.” The speaker gestured for Jimmy to stand in a particular mark on the platform. A redheaded boy, age 10, shuffled onstage and planted himself on the spot stamping his feet in the process. He grinned at those beyond the stage lights. Those in attendance tittered and whispered to each other.
“Now, Jimmy, you have been studying very hard at school this year, haven’t you?”
Jimmy nodded, but said nothing. The speaker waited for him. Jimmy rocked back and forth on his heels, hiked up his saggy jeans, and stared straight forward.
The speaker shuffled his cards and asked another question. “Could you tell us what you have been studying?”
Jimmy nodded, but said nothing. The audience laughed aloud and someone yelled, “What’cha been studying, boy?”
Jimmy looked up at the speaker and back toward the audience.
“It’s OK, tell them what you have been studying.” said the speaker.
“Anything else?” said the speaker.
Jimmy shook his head and grinned at the audience again.
The speaker shuffled his cards and then placed them on the podium beside him. He turned to Jimmy, leaned over and whispered into his ear. Jimmy eyes grew rounder and his grin widened. He put his hand into the air and said to the audience in a loud voice, “My name is Jimmy Costernation and I am here to tell you about what I’ve been studying.” He hesitated, looked around and began again. “I have been studying arithmetic and this man wants me to repeat my times tables to you.” He glanced up at the speaker before he started again.
“But, I ain’t gonna do that. I’m gonna tell you about the other stuff I’m learnin’ at the school. Miss Taberly been teaching us some other stuff and I’m gonna repeat that instead.”
The audience waited quietly, although the squeak of the folding chairs could be heard as people shifted their positions.
Jimmy shifted too. He stepped forward, placed his hands on his hips, braced his legs, and stretched his neck, first left and then right.
“Miss Taberly is my Bible teacher and she thinks I do this pretty good. So here goes.” He cleared his throat. “Bless-ed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He paused for moment, “ Bless-ed are those who mourn. They will be comforted. Like Mrs. Washington about Bobby. She was cryin’ so bad.”
“Bless-ed are the meek. They will inherit the earth. And bless-ed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will be filled.” Jimmy stopped looked around and said, “Bless-ed are the merciful. They will be shown mercy. Mercy they will be shown. They will be shown mercy. Like Mr. Davis did me the other day when I sassed him.”
He continued, “ Bless-ed are the pure in heart. They will see God. Did you hear? They will see God. I want to see God, but maybe later when I’m really old. Then the peacemakers, they will be called the sons of God. Peacemakers, the sons of God. How many sons of God do we have here tonight? I wanna be a peacemaker. And last are the perse—cuted.” He stumbled over the word. “Persecuted because of righteousness.” The “ss” made the sound system to hiss. Jimmy drew back a little but finished, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
He squared his shoulders and asked the audience, “Could you hear me? ‘Cuz Miss Taberly says a lot of folks never heard that ‘til Jesus said it and now it’s up to me to say it again fer Him. I think she’s a good teacher.”
He stepped back, hiked up his saggy jeans, and grinned. Miss Taberly wiped a tear from her cheek.
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