November 13 isn’t a day I recall other than the fact it was a Wednesday and I was probably working on the ﬁnishing touches of that week’s paper. However, the day sticks out because of a note small written by our ofﬁce manager on the bottom of a letter I received from Superintendent Larry Case of Madill Public Schools. The letter was an invitation to MPS th 8 annual Joyce Coleman Memorial Christmas with the Kids. At the time, I didn’t think much of it because I tend to get more than a bit of tunnel vision while on deadline. I tend to tune out the outside world on those days even if things are moving smoothly. Call it habit, muscle memory or something else.
Mr. Case’s letter invited me and dozens of other community members and business leaders to come read to Madill’s early childhood and elementary students on Dec. 17.
Although I had a stint as a reading tutor during college, I was not prepared for what was in store.
The big day arrived last Tuesday, and I made my way to the MPS Administration Building, which since April I’ve known only as the place where school board meetings are held.
I mention this because although I’ve seen people smile and laugh there before it is usually in the context of a business meeting.
When I arrived, the room was packed from wall to wall with the smiling faces of people ready to spend part of their morning serving others.
I saw plenty of people I knew or have met and others that I hadn’t. What stuck out was the air of joyful purpose in that room. Everyone was given a book to read and assigned a class to read to.
As an editor, people often tell me that a story or event is important. The faces of my fellow readers and MPS staff conﬁrmed that the aforementioned sentiment was true of Christmas with the Kids.
After getting my assignment, I drove over to the ECC for a visit with Mrs. Stark’s kindergarten class.
There I met a group of about two dozen kindergarteners, and they were some of the happiest and coolest people I’ve ever come across.
Our book was “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell” by Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee.
Let me tell you, these kids knew the words to the entire book. While they could have probably read the story themselves, they graciously gave me the space to read it to them in my own silly dad joke ﬁlled way.
It was a blast to say the least. They repeateded fun words for emphasis and one girl kindly obliged to ring a set of small bells she had each time I read the words bell or bells (which is a lot in this book).
The whole lot behaved and made my job for the day exceedingly easy. Real quick, kudos to their parents for teaching them manners and to Mrs. Stark for making her classroom a welcoming space.
We all laughed and read about a ﬁctional woman who not only swallowed a bell but also other items belonging to one Saint Nick. Don’t worry I won’t spoil the ending.
I was also encouraged to tell them about my job and realized it’s not easy to explain what goes in the newspaper to five-year-olds. One kid asked if someone got struck by lightning would I put that in the paper.
They asked fun questions and had unexpected answers when asked about their favorite athletes.
While I’d say I may have had more fun than them, I can’t help it but I am not able to compete with their collection smiles and good vibes. Maybe it’s because I have a job and other priorities that can distract for the simple things and the joy of life.
In that room, there was no conﬂict. There was no you versus me or us versus them. I’m not naïve enough to believe that will always be the case.
However, I sincerely appreciate the chance to relax and see things from someone else’s perspective.
That day, it was more like 24 perspectives with each one gazing in wonder at the next thing they could experience. The atmosphere was infectious and brightened up my morning.
Be it the holiday tidings or energetic children, something made me less of a scrooge/ grump for one day. At the end of the day, maybe our goal should be to get to a happy [or happier] place for the holidays.
This isn’t always easy and sometimes isn’t practical especially in times of loss and grief, which often this time of year.
However, for one hour at least there was no sadness but only gleeful smiles. And I for one, will take that any day.