Paper chains trimmed the classroom walls. Giant square snowflakes clung to the wintry windows. Nativity figures marched across the bookshelf. The words “The Gift of God” proclaimed its message on the bulletin board. Phonics and addition lessons competed with the excitement of the season, but there was one lesson I learned from a kind-hearted kindergartner.
A five-year-old's blue eyes filled with tears as I told my class of another little girl, burning with the fever of meningitis in a children’s hospital. Her family was staying in her room every day and in a motel at night. It looked as if they would be there through Christmas. As a school, we planned to give a money gift to them to help them through this trial.
The clock ticked in the silence as I told them Jesus’ words, “When you do it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” I explained that helping others around them is really giving a present to Jesus, and that He wants us to love others as He loves them. We ended the day with a prayer, and the children rushed out to play in the new fallen snow.
The next afternoon, just as school dismissed, the little blue-eyed girl dug into her pocket to retrieve a shiny quarter. She slipped it through the slot of the decorated can on the corner of my desk. The coin clunked to the bottom. With a frown, she shook the can.
“There’s not very much in there. I wish I had more, but I only have 25 cents.”
I hugged her. “That’s okay. Every little bit counts.”
“I know, but I still wish I had more money.”
Another teacher scurried into the room to discuss the upcoming Christmas program and party. She babbled on about learning some a new song and what to serve for refreshments.
I felt a tap on my arm. “Excuse me, Mrs. Gilmore. May I have some paper?”
With my mind on the Christmas program, I handed her the usual sheet of lined paper, but she shook her head.
“No, I need a small one . . . like one of those.” She pointed to my pad of memo-paper on my desk.
“Sure.” I tore off a piece.
Turning back to the program plans, I only half listened, for my thoughts wandered to the young kindergartner. While we discussed sandwiches and punch, gifts and games, I often glanced to see what she would do with the paper. Finally, the other teacher fluttered away to find some volunteers.
I pulled a wooden chair close to my little blue-eyed student. She hunched over her desk. The tip of her tongue stuck out slightly, and she clasped her pencil awkwardly. I could see her name written across the middle of the paper. C - H - E -L -S (It was backwards.) The E and A were squished into the corner, so as to make them fit. She was now writing numbers around her name . . . 1-2-3-4-5 . . . and so on though 20. The remaining space was filled with more 0's.
“What are you making?”
She gave me an upward glance. “A check.” I could almost hear the “of course.” She wrote a couple more 0's and sat back with a satisfied smile. “There! That should be enough. It's the best I can do.”
She folded her “check” and threaded it through the slot in the can. Just before she left, she wrapped her arms around my neck. “Don't be sad, Mrs. Gilmore. It's okay. I know Jesus will take care of every thing. I love you, Mrs. Gilmore.”
“I love you, too, Chelsea,” I replied thoughtfully.
She skipped happily out the door. I sat in the empty room with her words ringing in my ears, “It’s the best I can do.” My guilty heart ached with shame. How often have I given only a handful of change or a measly dollar for some charity cause and thought that I had done my share? When was the last time I had cared so much for someone who was hurting that I gave my all? Have I ever felt the joyful peace of doing my very best, of knowing God was pleased with me? It took a child to show me the way. “Lord, forgive my selfishness. Remind me often of Chelsea’s check.”
(a true story)
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