Summer collected us in this place, if only for a week. My mother made me go but, truth be told, I probably liked vacation Bible school.
My friends would be there, and they served Kool-Aid and cookies. Honestly, how much baseball can you play on hot days?
Volunteer teachers welcomed us with kids-level instruction in the Holy Trinity and God’s boundless grace.
Keep in mind that the studies took place in the upstairs classrooms of the fellowship building, a place where each late October the fathers in the congregation would conceive and execute a haunted house, scary but not too scary.
As I got older, I realized that the guy with fangs and bathed in the light of a red bulb was the bank president and my Little League coach.
These rooms in summer found us cross-legged on the floor, the lessons aided by books illustrated with drawings of Moses floating downriver in a basket and Christ feeding the multitudes. They got a secular assist by one of the most powerful air-conditioners of my memory.
The collection plate on Sunday would be none of my concern, but I wonder now if the Lilbourn United Methodist Church made special appeals to handle its electrical expenses.
Along with the cold air, there came that smell. A half-century later, I can catch a particular whiff, slightly musty, a tinge of wood paneling and old hymnals, and be transported to that place.
Also, we sang, often with the urgency of children one step short of getting Kool-Aid.
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow,
Black and white,
They are precious
In His sight.
The good Methodist children of the Missouri Bootheel sang because we were supposed to, but I look at those lyrics as an adult and recognize that we still fall short of the message in the 21st century.
Researchers in brain development have long held that music serves many purposes for young children, from sensory enhancement to improved moods to heightened skills in literacy and math.
Even the playing of soothing music has benefits prenatally, the unborn child detecting rhythms and getting in tune with a de-stressing of mother.
Once born, the babies get a steady diet of lullabies, an aural pacifier that buffers the moments between fussiness and blissful quiet.
Lilt matters more than lyrics. The words to “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” with its suggestions of a gale and a tot embedded in a tree, would be terrifying for a kid if understood. “Hush Little Baby” points to the reward for good behavior being the gift of a wild bird.
Parents employing Frère Jacques, with its bell-tolling references to “ding ding dong, ding ding dong,” will give the child a continental experience but hardly coax the kid to sleep.
A more sure bet, at least from a joyful musical entry, comes from “Happy Birthday,” a song everyone knows and that youngsters associate with gift-getting. Never mind lyrical nuance. This tune excels in simplicity.
Try putting the tune in a minor key, and you still can’t make it a dirge.
Perhaps it should still bring joy, one small bit of fight for these uncertain times, an aid in our cleansing. Happy birthday to us. May we have many more.