She brought her children to Sidewalk Sunday School. I thought she looked familiar, but she made no move to approach me. She chose instead to talk to Ms. Betty. That didn’t strike me as odd. Sidewalk has several different volunteers and people are drawn to each of us for different reasons.

She returned the next week. I kept looking at her. There was something familiar about her, but I didn’t know why. She couldn’t have been one of my former students. The kids from my first class would all be 17 and 18 now. She was too old, in her mid-20’s, at least. I approached her and introduced myself. She didn’t offer her name, and hurried away.

When the prayer requests were turned in, she asked for prayer for her mother. She gave her mother’s name, but not her own. She said her mother was very ill, and didn’t seem to be getting better.

She came early last Saturday. While I played catch with Moncey, the woman stared at me. She blushed when she realized I’d noticed. I walked over to her. “How is your mother?”

She shrugged, “Maybe better, but keep praying.” I told her I would, and started to turn away. She said, “Miss…” but shook her head and shrugged her right shoulder when I looked back.

That gesture was very familiar to me. I felt my eyes widen. “What is your name?” I asked her, but I already knew. We both said it at the same time, “Juana.” She was one of my former students.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked her, meaning two weeks ago, or the week before that even.

She shrugged again and waved her hand at me. “You look all different. Your hair. And your name. Your name is different.”

My name is different. I changed it when I divorced. My hair used to be very short, and platinum blonde. And back then I wore contacts.

Then she asked, “Why didn’t you recognize me?”

I replied, “You’ve grown up.” But that wasn’t it. She is at most 18 years old, and she has two children, ages 3 and 4. Her face is lined. Her eyes are sad. And she holds her shoulders as though the weight of the world rests on them.

Spring Fever?

The sun is shining. Birds are singing,  flowers are blooming – and so are idiots. It must be spring.

I went to Sidewalk Sunday School this morning. Twenty-six kids showed up. We had a Bible lesson, then got ready to play a game. The plan for the day was Tug-a-War. The kids were divided evenly by age and size and they tugged and pulled. I watched.

The kids divided again, boys-against-girls. There were about the same amount of kids on each side of the rope, however, the boys had three 13 year olds. The eldest girls — two of them — were 10. I decided to play. Jane, another adult, joined the girls as well. At that point Brandon, a 22 year old muscly male, joined the boys.

On your mark, get set — splat. Apparently my left knee wasn’t informed that it needed to participate. I made a spectacular dive into the dirt. The girls, concerned for my welfare, immediately let go of the rope, dropping the boys onto their backs like dominoes.

Moncey, a mighty six year-old ran over and heroically tried to lift me to my feet. It might have worked 😉 had she not been standing on my hand. The teenage boys ran over to pick me up and apologize. Brandon hid.

Then we all danced the Macarena, indulged in Burger King double cheese burgers, and departed for home. The kids hopping and skipping and singing. Me limping — again. My knees are too old for this, but my spirit still wants to play!

Crashing, Burning & a Little Leprosy

I had big plans for Saturday: lead Sidewalk Sunday School, take Joan shopping, clean the bathroom, vacuum the carpet, do the laundry, and finish my report cards. Pft.

As you likely know, I haven’t been sleeping well. Despite that fact, I chose to stay up late Friday night (to watch TV of all things) and get up early Saturday. Saturday mornings I run a children’s ministry, and afterwards I almost always take my former neighbor, Joan, grocery shopping. I managed both those things today. Joan was even sobber so helping her wasn’t a chore.

When I got home I put my own groceries away. The last thing I put away was a box of Kleenex for my bedside shelf. As I stretched across the bed (the only way to get to the other side of the room in my 8’x8′ bedroom) a sunbeam hit me. My eyes closed and I was out like a light.

I woke three hours later at 3:45 p.m. and spent the rest of the evening groggy and listless. I have the feeling I could have slept for several more hours — but I wouldn’t let myself. I need to catch up on my rest, but I don’t want to turn my days and nights around.

The best part of my Saturday was Sidewalk Sunday School. I taught a Bible lesson on the ten lepers. I was trying to explain to the kids what leprosy is. I said, “Imagine you didn’t have any feeling in your body, and you didn’t know your body parts were falling off until you saw that they were gone. You’d reach to tie your shoe, and discover your finger had fallen off. You’d try to put on earrings, and realize your ear was gone. You’d sneeze, and your nose would fly off ….”

“Oh! I get it!” Serenia exclaimed, “Like Michael Jackson!”

Sidewalk Sunday School

Since I’ve been here for awhile — and made a few friends — I guess it is safe to REALLY introduce myself. I am a teacher, a writer and a children’s evangelist. Supported by a team of truly awesome people I teach Sunday School every Saturday in one of Vegas’s poorest, most transient inner city neighborhoods.

This is our church. It is on wheels. October through May we take it to a local elementary school on Saturdays for worship. Each week we have a few new kids. Each week a few kids move away — the neighborhood is highly transient — however, some kids have been attending Sidewalk services for our entire five years.

These are our “pews” — two squares of carpet rolled out onto the asphalt. The children sit here for the lessons.

Where we roll out the carpet is always dictated by the weather — in the sun when its cold, in the shade when its hot, and not at all when it rains. The school has an outdoor lunch shelter we use when it rains, but unfortunately it is quite small and sometimes the kids really have to cuddle to fit eveyone in.

During the summer months when it is too hot to gather the children together and sit them on the ground, we have “splash” events where we all get together once every few weeks and try to drown each other in fun.

“The camera isn’t wategublpt!”

If you have now been inspired to start a Sidewalk Sunday School [patented] program in your church, please contact our Director, Billie Fidlin. Her email is: billie@desertsw.org

Be sure to put Sidewalk Sunday School (SSS) in the header, and tell her Charlene sent you.