This is a unique entry; it’s both a normal-ish blog and a tail story blog at the same time.
I have this theory about children. This theory is quite simple and doesn’t get too deep psychologically speaking. In fact, it’s so simple it might just revolutionize how we adults view the world and the children in it.
Here it is: Children smell fear.
Let me say it again. Children smell fear. I’m not sure if it’s metaphorical smelling or literal smelling, but they definitely have a 6th sense for it. It might be metaphorical smelling at first, and eventually us terrified adults get all sweaty and then they can literally smell it. Maybe. Or I could be totally wrong, but just go with it for now.
This is the tale about my first night in Convoy.
Once upon a time, there was this children’s program called Convoy. It was simple, Convoy was a Jesusy kids program thing where parents dropped their kids off at church for an hour on Wednesday nights so they could learn about Jesus stuff…and so parents could have free babysitting while they went to McDonald’s to have McFlurries to help keep the romance alive in their relationship. It was beautiful.
Zack’s wife, Kristene, was in charge of the entire Convoy Project, and Cousin Sindi was the teacher for the 5th and 6th graders. They had other age groups and teachers as well, but that’s not really pertinent right now.
After a while of Operation Convoy being fully operational, Kristene and Cousin Sindi asked me to help out and co-teach the 5th and 6th graders with Cousin Sindi. Now, I was a little apprehensive at first (apprehensive in the same way an un-neutered dog is apprehensive about getting in the crate before going to the vet, knowing exactly what’s going to happen to him there) because, believe it or not, I wasn’t always this smooth and delightfully awkward when dealing with children. I used to be utterly terrified at the thought of talking to one. They’re just so strange and tiny and they scream and run around and can’t tie their shoes or ride on roller coasters or make a decent omelet. Not that I ride on roller coasters or eat omelets, but that’s not important.
After a couple months of prodding, I finally agreed and started on a wonderful journey with Kristene, Cousin Sindi, a few other adults, and a lot of kids. In hindsight, I would say it’s easily one of the best decisions I’ve made in the past 2 years.
Anyway, I’m putting my nostalgia aside…for now.
I show up at the church at 6:30, just like I was told to. I walk into the children’s wing and see Kristene, Cousin Sindi, and Miss Lacy setting things up and preparing for the small people to show up. Judging by the looks on their faces, I would bet my face was pale and that I had a deer-in-the-headlights look. That’s what I felt like anyway. Being new and confused like I was, I said hi and then promptly sat myself down in a chair out of the way to observe.
Kids began to trickle in at about 6:50. Kristene, Cousin Sindi, and Miss Lacy all seemed incredibly giddy to see them, they were so happy sounding and smiley and stuff. The kids seemed very happy too, it was like an episode of The Cosby Show or something.
Then one of the small people walked over to me and started talking, just out of the blue. He was probably about 8 years old. I complimented his Batman shirt and we talked for a minute, then he ran away to play with the other small people.
Kristene did the beginning-intro stuff. The praying, the pledge thing, introducing everyone (including me, apparently I wasn’t the only new person that night), and then they sang very happy songs with motions and stuff. I’ve never been a big fan of songs with motions, so I subtly left and took my 7:15 bathroom break.
They were finishing up the singing stuff when I got back and then we all broke into our groups. Miss Lacy and Kristene took the really small people (everyone that wasn’t in 5th or 6th grade), and Cousin Sindi and I took the 5th and 6th graders. Cousin Sindi led the pack into our room as I followed from the rear like a lost puppy.
We had 10 kids, I think. Maybe it was 12? I lost count after 6. It was split pretty evenly between boys and girls. I learned several things that night, one of which was that 5th and 6th graders know sarcasm. I was shocked! I didn’t know they knew how to be sarcastic; it was very reassuring. That’s when I knew we would all get along just fine.
Cousin Sindi introduced me, I sheepishly said hi, and then she told them I work on an ambulance for a living. One of the 6th grade girls sarcastically said for me to prove it, and like any mature 22 year old, I said some big medical word I heard from House. It worked beautifully until another asked for me to spell it. Oops.
I awkwardly changed the subject and asked what their names were, and they went around the table and introduced themselves. I was proud of myself for swiftly deflecting answering that question and was very relieved.
I was relieved too soon though. As soon as they were done, she brought it back up and asked again for me to spell it. I gave Cousin Sindi a terrified look and she said, “oh yeah, they know sarcasm really well here. You don’t have to spell it if you don’t want to, Mr. Adam.” (I was a mister there, it was so cool! And it made me feel kind of old and distinguished.)
What am I supposed to do in that situation? Spell some ridiculous word I heard from a TV medical drama? What if I spelled it wrong? Would they know? Would I lose whatever credibility I had? Ordinary 5th and 6th graders wouldn’t know, but these ones were crafty. I had to think quick, I had to do something.
What I did next shocked everyone, especially myself. It was also the birth of something. Something big.
I blurted, “Hold on, first, I have a question for all of you. And it’s probably the most important question you’ll ever be asked in your life, this is serious stuff here.” They all settled down and had a look of unsettled intrigue on their faces, including Cousin Sindi. I paused for dramatic effect and said, “if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?”
It caught everyone off guard. I could almost see the gears in their heads turning, trying to comprehend how this was an important question and why they would even have a tail to begin with. To this day, I still don’t know how I thought of it in my fearful state, but I’m glad I did.
They all answered at once in a yelling fashion. Cousin Sindi quieted them all down because I was new and wasn’t comfortable being authoritative yet…but it was mainly because I was temporarily incapacitated and almost on the floor in the fetal position from all of the yelling. I don’t like loud chaotic noises.
They finally calmed down and answered one at a time going around the table. A 5th grade boy said he wanted a moose tail, another said a snake tail, a 6th grade girl wanted a bunny tail, another 5th grade boy wanted one like Godzilla, a 5th grade girl wanted a “fairy tale with unicorns and knights and castles”, a 6th grade boy wanted a salamander tail. Then all chaos broke loose and they started talking loudly at the same time again. I heard bits and pieces, but what I could make out was “horse”, “cow”, “cat”, “Legos”, “Star Wars”, and “Bionicle”. I’m still not sure what Lego’s, Star Wars or Bionicle had to do with anything, but it was 5th and 6th graders, I should’ve expected something like that to come up.
Then I asked the second half of the question: Why? Why did they pick that tail?
The answers I got from that question would be another several blogs that none of us have time to read. The gist of their answers was along the lines of: “it’s pretty”, “I like horses”, “salamanders smell cool”, “Godzilla could eat my mom when she tells me to clean my room”, “I just want a fairy tale with a unicorn”, “bunnies hop and have big ears”, etc. It was crazy awesome.
Cousin Sindi did the lesson in record time (the tail thing kind of sidetracked us all), and then we joined everyone else in the main big room for the closing stuff. After a few high-fives and goodbyes, the small people had all left.
Cousin Sindi, Miss Lacy, and Kristene came up to me later and congratulated me on surviving my first night and asked if I would be back the following week. I confidently said “yes” in question form with my classic deer-in-the-headlight look.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legend of my first night in Convoy and the birth of the tail question.