August in Alabama is hot. And inside a classroom filled with thirty-one kindergartners it’s awfully hot – even with an air conditioner. My first year to teach was before the Smith Act that lowered the ratio of students-to-teacher to a manageable number. So as my ship set sail on the maiden voyage of my teaching career, there were thirty-one five year olds on board with me. I didn’t have a class – it was a herd. The “caboose” couldn’t get up the stairs and around the corner of the hallway before I rounded the corner at the other end of the hall – which would have put me out of their sight – and that never ends well. So we left early for lunch stopping several times to allow the end of the line to catch up with the front. It’s similar to herding kittens.
It required eight tables to seat them all, but lack of space demanded that I pack them around six. Surrounded by all the centers, games and educational materials, we were packed in as tight as children’s summer feet in Sunday shoes. When that many five year olds come inside from P.E. on a sweltering August day they bring with them a distinctive aroma. At least after P.E. it was nap-time so I put some under the tables, one on top of each table, and hung the others on the wall to rest. Of course there were some who liked to put their mats as close to my desk as possible – in case I should try to escape, so I would trip and fall, which would alert them. Daniel was one of these. He preferred to put his mat under my desk but I convinced him that in front of my desk would be near enough for him to keep an eye on me.
It happened to turn cloudy during nap that day, and a strong breeze blew up so I opened the windows to let nature freshen up the room a bit. I sat at my desk correcting papers listening to the heavy breathing of the children parallel the sound of the breeze. And then it started… heavy, random drops at first, then turning into a slow and steady, rhythmic shower.
This will keep them asleep long enough for me to finish this paperwork I thought. And then… like a prairie dog from its hole, Daniel’s head popped up in front of my desk. His eyes were huge with wonder and his precious smile consumed me. “Mrs. Barnett!” He whispered in awe, “I can smell the rain!” It was as if he’d had a life changing experience and I could tell this was the first time he’d connected a smell with rain. “I know Daniel, I can too! I like that smell don’t you?” I whispered back to him. “Yes!” He shook his head vigorously, still smiling and dropped back down to his mat.
Have you ever had a moment you knew you’d always remember… one that was trivial in the greater scheme of the world but somehow very significant to you? That was one of those moments for me. Daniel had shared something with me that he couldn’t keep to himself. The thrill he got from realizing that he could smell rain took me back to my childhood when I first realized the same thing. And during that moment I knew that he had become aware of something only God could do.
You see rain can be experienced easily with four of the five senses. You can always see it, hear it, feel it and even taste it if you open your mouth – but you can’t always smell it. The smell comes when it’s very hot and there’s been a long dry spell. When those drops finally come it doesn’t matter whether they land on dirt, concrete or asphalt it creates a unique smell of hot and dry being swallowed up by cool and moist. And it only lasts for a little while.
God is known for taking ordinary things and using them in magnificent ways for His purposes. Right under our noses, we are usually unaware of it. I believe He begins to reveal the awesomeness of His love to little ones through creation, preparing them for the power of His love through salvation. The smell of a rain shower while his classmates slept was a small blip on Daniel’s radar of his awareness of God. I know that in his life there have been many more that fit precisely together to form the man he finally became. I guess that’s part of the significance of that moment for me… that God allowed me to share it.
There will always be paperwork and smelly kids in August. But there will also be moments like the one Daniel and I shared. I hope you’re looking for them, and that you’ll stop long enough to experience them… for they truly are from God.
Do any of the worthless idols of the nation bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.
Blessings to you,