Don’t you just hate smart-aleck teenagers? Especially when they are right.
Many years ago I taught a Sunday School class for the teenagers at our church. I really enjoyed doing it, and the kids were a lot of fun. I have come into contact with many of them through the years since, and they have seemed to have become well-adjusted adults. This is in spite of whatever influence I may have had on them those Sunday mornings. One is even now a deacon at our church. Who knew? But, back then, they could still be teenagers.
One Sunday, I was teaching a lesson and said, “Remember, when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” Obviously, the lesson must have been about money, and it was stated as a passing remark, nothing more.
A few Sundays later, while teaching a lesson, I remarked about something and said, “But it’s not about the money.” Then, from the back of the classroom, I saw a head pop up, and heard the voice from a young boy, who I had thought was usually sleeping or daydreaming most of the time during class. “I thought you said when someone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. But now you say it’s not about the money.” he said, with a snarky grin on his face. I admitted he was right and went on with the lesson, while he slumped back in his chair into his usual sleeping/daydreaming state.
Yes, at first it irritated me that this kid caught me with a contradiction. I worked hard getting those lessons up. And he sits back there in the back of the class, looking bored and disinterested. Then he has the gall to bring up something I said several weeks earlier, just to catch me on it. Then it hit me. He was listening! And not only that, he remembered! (OK, even if it was just to get one up on his teacher.)
More years past, and another one of those teenagers from those Sunday School years was back at our church visiting. He is now the pastor of a church in Virginia. Once again, who knew? While chatting, he told me that he could still remember a certain lesson I taught, and that it had meant a lot to him through the years. To be honest, I couldn’t remember it, but he did.
You don’t think they are listening, but they are. Well, at least, somewhat. And you never know what one thing you say that will have that important impact on their lives. It has been true in my life, just as I’m sure it is true for you.
Of course, I can recall things Daddy and Mama said that have guided me through the years. For example, Daddy was talking about some guy. (I think it was while I was working with him at the tobacco market.) He said, “You know he’s a good ol’ boy. The problem is that isn’t a whole lot of demand for good ol’ boys anymore.” Maybe not as profound, but there was more advice along the way about school, work, life, etc. But more importantly, it was the way they lived their lives that set the example for me. Along the way, there have been things others have said which have stuck with me.
It’s easy to become discouraged when trying to be a positive influence on the younger folks around you. You may be at church, in the classroom, at the ballfield, at work, or at home. You don’t think they are listening, but they are. I’m amazed when the grandkids bring up things I talked to them about several months before. Now teenagers and young adults may be harder. But they are listening, whether they look like it or not. And even if they are listening just to catch you on something, like that smart-aleck kid in Sunday School, they are still listening. And you can have that positive impact.
Who knows, somewhere during the years since those days at Sunday School, someone may have tried to scam that kid, now an adult, by saying, “But it’s not about the money.” If so, I bet he thought back to that Sunday School class when he heard, “Remember, when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]