A few weeks ago, when Dave was getting ready to take a run to the dump, we tackled a pile of boxes which had been stored in a covered area along with our hay. Spying one dilapidated box, I told Dave, “I think those are the last of Cindy’s things.” A woman from church and her two children had lived in our travel trailer a few years ago, and she’d left a couple of boxes full of things she no longer wanted. The shoes on the top of that box were hers — so I almost suggested that Dave just toss the whole box. But at the last minute, I said, “Maybe I should take a quick peek first.” I’m so glad I did. Inside that box were old pictures, old letters, and a diary that had belonged to my mother when she was just a teenager. I don’t know how Cindy’s unwanted shoes found themselves on top of such a treasure, but while Dave was driving to the dump, I was sitting on the couch sorting through my memories. I’ve much to tell about what I found there. But for today, let me tell you about Garrett …
He was the tallest of my first graders, and probably the one with the best memory. Six-year old Garrett Smith loved two things: dinosaurs and Star Wars. On his first day of first grade (which happened to be my first day on my own as a teacher) Garrett asked me if I’d like to hear the opening lines to the Star Wars movie. He then stood with his head high, legs locked, and hands on his hips, and began the soliloquy he’d memorized from watching the movie: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”
He knew the whole thing. And it so delighted me that I made frequent requests for encores throughout the year. “What was that opening line of Star Wars, Garrett?”
Because of the efforts of his mother, Ann, Garrett had an in incredible vocabulary. Whenever he got an idea, he wouldn’t say, “How about this?” or “I know! Let’s ….” Instead, he’d raise his index finger in the air and say, in his high, six year-old voice, “Mrs. Woodward, I have an EX-cellent suggestion!”
Garrett’s face and voice came alive for me when, while sorting through my newly rescued pile of letters and photographs, I came upon a lavender, dinosaur-stamped envelope. “Mrs. Woodward” was written across the center in distinctive first-grade handwriting.
Inside, I found two math pages. The first question on the first page showed six milk cartons lined up next to the number “6” and below, three milk cartons lined to the right of the number “3.” Big as life, Garrett had written “9” on the line beneath the problem, just like I’d taught him. He knew the next answer, too: “1 + 7 = 8,” and all the ones that followed. In fact, he’d received 100% on this paper. On top of the front side, I’d drawn a smiley face and written Great! On the flip side, I’d written Wow! Page two sported a colorful gold fish looking up at Garrett’s answers with bulbous, astonished eyes. Garrett had taken the time, on this picture, to color all his answers with blue, green or yellow crayon. Again, all his answers on this paper were correct. For his efforts, I’d given him a Yipee! on on side, and the coveted Super Duper! on the other.
Garrett had received his prize … and for whatever reason, he wanted to give it back to me. I don’t recall the conversation that occurred when Garrett handed that lavender envelope to me and I opened it to find his two perfect math papers. But I’m fairly certain I didn’t make the connection I do today. Today, it seems pretty clear to me that Garrett was doing what I’ll do when I reach the end of my life and face the One who gave it to me.
He was casting crowns.
The twenty-four Elders fell down before him and worshiped him, the Eternal Living One, and cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “O Lord, you are worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power …'” –Rev 4:10-11 (TLB)