March 24, 2011

5th Grade Hero

One of my most important lessons was taught to me in the 5th Grade by a fellow classmate named Katie Kellog. I have never, nor will I ever forget who she was or what she taught me. This is a lesson on forgiveness.

On January 1, 1999, my family and I moved to Eagan, Minnesota. This was a brand new adventure. New house, new school, new friends, new ward, new life. I was 10, and ready to take on D.A.R.E., fractions, spelling tests, and any other challenge that my new school could offer. Despite my enthusiasm, however, I was still a nervous, and rather insecure about being the "new girl."

The first day of school came. All the kids were coming back from Christmas break, and I was hoping to just sneak my way into the throng of students, and not draw attention to myself. I put on my favorite outfit; my lavender long sleeve shirt, and my tan corduroy overalls. I was styling, and was ready to be friends with everyone in class. I walked through the doors of Deerwood Elementary, took a deep breath, and tried to be cool. My teacher, Mrs. Stone, had a warm smile, and a kind laugh. "This is going to be okay," I thought to myself. Nice teachers make all the difference. The kids in my class started coming in their usual fashion, and all too soon, they were whispering about the "new girl."

I met so many different kids, and worried about remembering all of their names. They seemed nice enough, and I told myself that it was going to be fine. I met a girl named Sarah who was very kind, and seemed to take me under her wing. Sarah walked me back to the coat rack so I could hang up all of my winter gear, when a girl turned around. Her name was Katie Kellog. I remember Katie smiling at me, and I had the distinct feeling that I knew her from somewhere. I couldn't put my finger on it, but she seemed so familiar to me. What surprised me more than anything was that before I could express this, Katie said the same thing. "Hi? Are you new?" Yes. "You seem so familiar to me." I agreed. However, neither one of us could decide where we knew each other from. The bell rang, and we both walked into the classroom. I was hoping that I had found a friend.

This first encounter with Katie Kellog, and the bond I felt with her faded from my mind on that first day of school somewhere between art class and recess. However, with the blessing of retrospect, it has become all the more important to me. Katie and I were never the best of friends, but I have always remembered how kind she was to me.

I felt rather lost for a time when I first started school at Deerwood Elementary. I struggled with who I was, and how to fit in with everyone else. I was also beginning a battle with my health that left me tired and quiet most days. I fell into a rut, and became angry. I was angry that we had moved; angry that I had left my friends; angry at all the changes that were happening in my life. I became a bully, and consequently had very few friends. I became jealous of all the people I once admired. Jealous of their friends; their popularity; their being accepted. I became jealous of Katie. She seemed to have it all- everything I wanted in my 10-year-old nonsense, and I felt threatened. I wanted to get back at her, make her understand how miserable I was.

One day, after school, my mom was asking me about my lunch. She always make me a delicious sack lunch, and she wanted to know if I had enjoyed the Oreo's she put in there. Indeed, I had; they were the best part of my lunch. But I lied to her. "What Oreos?" She looked surprised. "Didn't you see the Oreo's I put in your lunch?" No, I lied again. She continued to look puzzled. To this day, I don't know what made me say it. It was one of those thoughts that came out of my mouth before I even really thought about it, but like disgusting, sticky, smelly hot tar, the lie was dripping from my mouth. "Oh, that explains it. Today I saw Katie Kellog with Oreo's during snack time." I was surprised at my own genius. "That will get Katie," I thought to myself. Then she'll know what it's like. My mom's bewilderment turned to concern, and anger. She didn't say anything, and I went on my merry way. In fact, I got a couple of extra oreo's out of it. Life was good.

The next day at school, Sarah and Katie were talking. Like every other day, I ignored them and kept to myself. Sarah came up to me, and asked me about the Oreos. "Why did you tell your mom that Katie stole your Oreos?" Shocked, would be the only word to describe the emotion that filled my entire body. How in the world did Sarah know about that? "I didn't tell her that," I lied again. Hot shame turned my face red. I turned back to my desk, folded my arms, and put my head in them. This was not good. I was very quiet all day, wishing the minutes away when I could get away from the judgement bar.

I was a little worried about what my mom would say when I got home, but figured it would be nothing worse than what I had faced at school that day. I walked in the door, and there was my mom, waiting for me. "Hi, sweetie. Let's talk for a minute." Uh, oh. She knew something. "I'm not mad, I'm just concerned," she told me. Well that was worse than being mad. Being concerned was a step above being dissapointed, and there was nothing lower than that. My poor mother then told me what had happened. She had called a couple of different parents to ask what had happen to make sure that the other kids weren't stealing. She had called Katie's mom, and Sarah's mom, and both Katie and Sarah had reported that they had seen ME eating oreo's at snack time. I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I was caught, and my enitre 5th grade class knew what a liar I was. I began to cry. My mother held me in her arms, and told me gently and lovingly that what I had done was wrong, and that I needed to make it right.

She told me that she was going to take me over to Kaite's house, and that I needed to apologize to Katie, and her parents for what I had done. Remorse filled me. Part of it was that I had gotten caught, and part of it was that I had dissaponted my parents. I had a small incling of what I had done, and how wrong it was, but my embarassment was all encompassing, and I couldn't seem to get past it. We had a couple giant candy bars in the house to give as gifts, and I asked my mom if I could give one to Katie. She agreed, and I wrapped it up, and decorated it with stickers that said, "SORRY KATIE." The drive to Katie's house was the longest of my life. I didn't know who I was more terrified to see; Katie, or her mother.

My mom and I walked up to the door after I begged her to come with me. Katie's mom answered the door. Ashamed, shy, and slighly terrified, I handed Katie her candy bar. "Sorry, Katie. I shouldn't have lied. I'm sorry." Katie smiled, took the candy bar, and gave me a hug. "It's okay," she told me. And that was that. She had forgiven me. Never once was she cruel, or hurtful, or even seemingly upset about what had happened for the rest of the school year. No, we never became the best of friends, and no we never even really became more than acquaintences. But she never treated me differently. She was the most Christ-like person I have ever met. She really did forgive me.

Now, 13 years later, I have reflected on this experience over and over. I have felt bad about what I did to sweet Katie Kellog all of my life. Yet, I have always been so grateful to her for what she taught me. The lesson that I learned from Katie wasn't one of just repentance; I have had many an opportunity to learn that since then. Rather, Katie taught me the importance of forgivness. She forgave my sin against her, and never once held a grudge. She was free from my mistake. She was free from my anger and my contempt. She gained more by having the pure love of Christ in her life, and allowed it to lift her up.

Since that experience, I have asked for forgivness, and been asked to forgive. Forgiving those that have wronged us can be an extremely difficult thing. I completely understand this concept. Yet in those moments where I wrestle with myself on whether or not I can extend my forgivness to another, I am reminded of my 5th Grade Hero. More importantly, I am reminded of my Brother, who is forever my hero. Jesus Christ has prepared the way for us to recieve forgivness of our sins. Because he has paid that price, I can stand clean before my Father again.

I know that as we repent, our Father in Heaven can offer his forgivness to us, through the merits of our sinless older brother. We too need to follow his example, and forgive those who have wronged us. When preaching to the Collosians, Paul counsels them to be holy, and to serve God. He tells them, "Put on therefore, as the elect from God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, logsuffering; forbearing one aonother, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."

Each one of us, at one time or another has felt the love and forgivness streaming from heaven, extended by our merciful Savior, even Jesus Christ. May we each follow in His example, and forgive others. I testify that as we do this, we can feel the power of the atontment more fully and powerfully in our lives. We will become free, and recognize the peace that comes in and through Jesus Christ. Let's become more like the hero's in our lives, 5th Grade heros, and omnipotent heros.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience! It is such a blessing to have people like Katie in our lives who forgive us so openly and quickly. I do know that is also how our Heavenly Father is. I know through Jesus Christ we can find the strength to overcome the weaknesses and faults we have.