Here’s a little story. My grandmother Lorraine grew up during America’s Great Depression. Her father, a coal miner, was disabled by the time Lorraine graduated high school. She had always wanted to be a teacher—it was her great passion. But reality sent her in another direction. The day after Lorraine’s high school graduation, her father put her on a train to the nearest city. She would stay with a relative, find a job, and send money back to her parents and four siblings. This she did, and the years went by with their shifting circumstances, and Lorraine was never able to attend college and get her teacher’s certification. She carried on as wife, mother, then grandmother. Her husband died prematurely, and she remained unmarried until her death decades later.
It wasn’t until her widowhood, in her grandmother years, that Lorraine became quite involved in the local Methodist church. By the time I was old enough to notice, she had been teaching children’s Sunday School class for awhile. And what a class it was! Two—in some cases three—generations of people in our little town learned how to look up Scripture references and read from the Bible aloud and with confidence. We memorized the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Twenty-Third Psalm, and the Beatitudes. We learned stories through flannel graphs and building projects (I recall that we somehow built a Noah’s Ark there in the classroom). Grandmother was good at crafts—needle crafts, ceramics, you name it—and so during Vacation Bible School there was none of this stuff made from dried macaroni or popsicle sticks—we learned to paint ceramics and put antiquing on our framed praying hands. I don’t even remember a lot of what we did, but at the end of VBS, we had truly nice crafts to take home, and we had learned how to work comfortably with art.
And much later—I was in college then—Grandmother Lorraine started her own after-school program by bringing crafts to the church parlor, where any kid could come after school and work on projects. Grandmother was involved with youngsters until failing physical health, including Alzheimer’s, made that impossible.
I still think Lorraine would have been a wonderful force in a public classroom. She had a way of making kids feel good and important and curious and hopeful, and she would have brought that gifted presence with her every day, year after year.
But that dream did not materialize. So she just built another one, and I know that her passion for teaching was a healing energy in our little town, for a lot of people, not just the kids. She held adult Bible studies and women’s groups in her home—but those are other stories.
Do you remember someone who personified a life of passion?