Monday, October 16, 2006

Fourth-Grade Miracle

A little humor for a Monday…

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher, Ms. Paolicchi, told the most amazing stories. They were all Bible stories—you know, Catholic school and all—and she told them with such fervor and enthusiasm, it was hard not be completely enthralled. My favorite, by far, was her version of the story of Lazarus. (For those of you who don’t remember, Lazarus was the guy who died and was placed in a tomb, but Jesus brought him back to life.)

Anyway, to this day, I remember Ms. Paolicchi telling that story for probably the eighty-gazillionth time (yes, I’m exaggerating), but there was something different in her presentation on this day. I even remember what she was wearing! She was wearing brown polyester slacks with a sort of drapey cowl-necked yellow sweater and brown moccasins. And she was wearing a dangly necklace with all kinds of beads on it. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do. It’s burned into my brain.

I was sitting at my desk (fourth row, third seat), chin propped in my palms, waiting for our religion lesson to be finished, but amazed at her dramatic voice as she described Lazarus’s grieving family and their heartbreak at his death. She was explaining how Jesus had been away, and that was why He wasn’t able to help Lazarus during his illness, and why he had ended up dying. I felt sad for Lazarus and his family, but already knew the outcome (we all knew Jesus was going to save the day), so my excitement probably wasn’t what it should have been as Ms. Paolicchi was working her way up to the miraculous and climactic ending.

I was sitting there, watching as Ms. Paolicchi assumed the proper stance. She was at the front of the classroom, and to her left was the classroom door. She had just gotten to the part where Lazarus’s family brought Jesus to the tomb, and it was like watching it in slow-motion as she turned to face the door on her left, stretched her arms straight out in front of her body, then pulled them back, sort of striking her own chest, took a partial step forward with her right foot and roared, “Lazarus, COME OUT!” At that very second, the classroom door opened, and the entire class of nine-year olds let out frenzied screams of terror. There were actual cries of “Ms. Paolicchi must really be Jesus! Lazarus is coming for us!”

You can imagine the fearful looks and then laughter when the janitor, Alfonso, jumped about three feet in the air with a completely bewildered look on his face. It wasn’t a miracle. Turns out, he was just coming in to collect our recycling bin. Talk about good timing! I don’t know who was more scared—the kids or Alfonso.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Paolicchi was completely unfazed by it. She continued with her story, then launched straight into our spelling lesson without missing a beat. How do teachers do that? Do they just learn to expect the unexpected? I don’t know. And maybe Ms. Paolicchi didn’t know either.

All I do know is that from then on, our class always paid attention to the stories in religion. And maybe that was the point of the story—to expect the unexpected and to always be prepared for miracles.

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