Miss Foley was a wondrous fourth grade teacher. She had snowy wisps of hair, and she was always drinking glasses of water from a thermos she kept in the closet by her desk. She wore polka dots, and draped her shoulders in a cream colored sweater with pearl embellishments.
She smelled of lilacs, crisp clean sheets, and baby powder. Her shoes had huge clumpy heels, and we always knew when she was on the prowl – looking to see if we were getting our work done on time, and with good penmanship.
She had a big giggle of a laugh, and she would weep in joy when something struck her funny; like when Mickey Johnson announced his Christmas trumpet solo as, “I Saw Three Shits Come Sailing In”. After Mickey’s red faced solo, Miss Foley hugged him and said thanks for a wonderful laugh. I think her hug was more embarrassing than his infamous slip of the tongue.
My favorite thing about Ms. Foley was how when she wanted us to pay attention or notice, she would loudly say, “Listen up!” We came to know that whatever was going to be heard at such times was important, had meaning, and mattered to Miss Foley.
I'm not sure if kids today would understand the idea of listening up. Their ears are being bombarded by such noise and nonsense much of the time, and by voices with little or nothing of value to say. I know this sounds harsh, but I suspect it is also true.
Lent, like Miss Foley, wants us to listen up. Lent wants us to hear the wishes of our hearts, the pains of our neighbors, the whispering needs of the lonely and the lost, and the myriad sounds of beauty and joy and goodness which speak the language of God every single day.
There is something about the word UP which distinguishes this kind of listening. It reminds us to listen for that which is on the up and up, and that which inspires, and words that lift us up to higher ground.
During recess, when we were scooting around the schoolyard, Miss Foley would sometimes ask us to stop and look up and listen up to the birds singing in the trees. I found it annoying, but there was this one day when she spotted a trio of orioles, orange wings aflame, and belting out some silly quirky song.
O, Lord of Lent, make us smart enough to not miss such unforgettable moments, like the shock of seeing a rare oriole belting out a tune, while perched on a lime laced sprig of Spring. Amen.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.