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I know how to spell Deuteronomy,  Obviously; since I just wrote it, and you're now reading it.  But I've known how to spell Deuteronomy since I was five years old.

I didn't go to preschool but started kindergarten at a small private school called Emmanuel Lutheran.  It was located 1/2 a block away from my home and I was able to walk to school every day.  Almost all of the neighborhood children attended the same school.  My parents were very involved.  And everyone knew everyone.

My third grade class on a field trip to Williamsburg, VA
I'm the TERRIFIC one in the front.  

I'm not sure what the magic equation was.  Involved parents.  Small classes.  Excellent curriculum.  Great teachers.  Caring environment.  But every child that attended that school excelled academically and learned most importantly to be kind.

A lot of our reading was from the Bible.  I remember sitting in class, very young, maybe five or six years old, and children struggling through what I like to call The Begats of the Bible as we all took turns reading aloud.  Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Joktan.  Those are some tough sounds for little kids from Virginia to tackle.  But I also don't remember anyone thinking they were being asked to do anything beyond our capabilities.  Teachers thought we could handle it.  And so we did.  I remember one particular spelling challenge.  And the word I was given was Deuteronomy.  And I remember thinking 'well that's a funny sounding word'.  But I spelled it out loud as I was asked, and I got it right.

Even though Emmanuel was a Christian Lutheran school I don't recall any Christian Dogma, as I think it should be.

My kindergarten teacher was my favourite.  Her name was Joy Hagen.  She was a beautiful smiling hippie with long blonde hair.  She had an acoustic guitar and we all used to sit in a circle and sing along together.  My favourite song was Kumbaya.

In the 1970's autograph books were very popular.  I got one as a gift and asked her to sign it.  And this is what she wrote.

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Always Remember

Jesus Loves You

I'll never forget it.

Every autumn there was a big fall festival and we all took hayrides around the church and school property in a big tractor.  We had bake sales, and bobbing for apples and resale fundraisers.  People would bring in things like their old costume jewelry and we'd buy plastic necklaces for a penny.

I wish everyone had a school like Emmanuel to attend.  I don't know how much tuition was but either it wasn't very expensive or they had a lenient and liberal financial aide program because there were definitely students who did not come from wealthy or even middle class families.  I remember one girl in particular.  She was very shy.  My mother and I went to visit her at her home once.  It was probably the first time I was faced with blatant poverty.  From what I could tell the little house was not much more than one large room.  There was an old black coal furnace in the middle of the living area.  Off to the side of the room was a sheet hanging from the ceiling.  I could see her father asleep in bed beyond the sheet partition.  And that was it.

I'll never forget that either.

I was a little obsessed with that girl when I was little.  I used to have these grand daydreams about changing her life.  I wanted to give her a makeover and buy her pretty clothes and turn her into a beautiful swan.  I didn't realize that all I needed to do was be nice to her.

I need that lesson now.  We don't need to do big impressive things to change the world or make someones life better.  All we need to do are simple things.  The easiest things that we often overlook.

Just be nice.


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