You can learn a lot when you teach

?Not Your Average Diction?ary? defines the noun ?boy? as ?a noise with dirt on it.? Yet, somewhere inside that noise and underneath that dirt, there are plenty of lessons to be learned.

I had the opportunity to figure this out last week when I led a group of four going-into-third-grade boys around my church?s vacation Bible school.

Author Franklin P. Jones might have had a better definition for young boys when he said, ?You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.?

This point was soon made for me as I tried to corral my four guys into one location during song time, which is decent entertainment for anyone but a third-grade boy who would rather be wrestling with another third-grade boy.

Even though, technically, I was the one who was supposed to be teaching them, I came away from the experience with no more new knowledge other than how to redirect two third-grade wrestlers to the music onstage.

And I?m glad I did.

With events in my life spinning wildly outside of my control?the transition to college, adjusting to a new computer that I haven?t quite made my own yet, leaving my car windows open during a rather sudden downpour?it?s nice to reflect on some simple lessons taught by some guys whose only problems are trying to discreetly conceal a booger they just picked.

Here are just a few of the things they re-taught me about life.

n If you have a girlfriend, be ready to face the music. Apparently at the third-grade level, girls are an item of interest, but under no circumstances should one ever admit it.

During a discussion time, one of the guys happened to bring up his girlfriend. Immediately, the boy sitting next to him began taunting, ?You?re a sissy! You have girlfriend, so you?re a sissy. You?re such a sissy because you have a girlfriend.?

I turned to the taunter and offhandedly asked, ?So do you have a girlfriend??

Hanging his head, he sighed and admitted, ?Yes.?

n Simple objects are just as amusing as organized fun. Although we had about 20 minutes of game time each day at VBS, I think my group got the same level of fun out of the random objects around them.

On the first day, everyone attending VBS was issued a metal pin?similar to a campaign button?with their names written on it. Toward the beginning of the week, when we were supposed to be talking about our Bible memory verse, one of the kids in my group discovered that if he laid a pin needle-side up, he could make it glide several feet across the carpet.

Unfortunately, this proved to be much more fun than memorizing a Bible verse, so a game of Bumper Pins was invented, and played daily.

They also got a kick out of smashing their Styrofoam cups after snack time. They would set the cup upside down and bring their first down hard and the cups would ?explode from the inside.?

I guess this could be considered a lbit violent, but as long as they weren?t wrestling with each other, I wasn?t going to argue.

n Relax, you?ll get all the information you need. I think sometimes we focus too hard on taking notes and getting every single detail down that we don?t just relax and digest the information.

During story time, I was worried the guys in my group weren?t learning what they were supposed to be learning. Some of them insisted on crawling under pews, while others picked their noses or made snow angels in the carpet.

Yet during our brief discussions (between bumper pin timeouts) I discovered they had retained everything they were supposed to.

n Your imagination is only as good as your willingness to imagine. While all of the guys in my group had very active minds (see ?Simple objects are just as amusing as organized fun? above), one kid in my group had a particularly active imagination.

One day he decided he and I were magnetized to each other, and we spent the rest of the day, and part of the next day, with our sides plastered together.

You should have felt the magnetic pull when we got separated over 20 feet. I almost dislocated a hip when the magnetic force yanked us back together.

n There?s never a bad moment to clean up your language.

During another group discussion, I said a bad word without thinking much about it. Three of the guys froze, as if I?d just done something terribly wrong, but I couldn?t figure out what.

?You said a bad word,? one of them said.

I still had no clue what it was. So they spelled it out.

?You said S-T-U-P-I-D!?

I apologized profusely and watched my mouth the rest of the week.

n It doesn?t matter if other people are watching; just let loose and dance! I think as a third-grade boy, it?s practically taboo to dance and sing. I spent all week telling the guys to stop wrestling and do the actions and sing along. After I finally convinced them it was OK, they were singing just was well as anyone else, and their choreography wasn?t half bad either.

In the same way, I think we need to stop worrying about what other people see us doing and just have fun and be ourselves. Of course, this might not be the best idea when trying to hide a booger.

* * *

UFO: Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.

Don?t ask why.

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