Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kindergarten Ashes

Dear friends,

Today I am reminded of the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Monday through Friday in the weekday afternoons, I work for two hours in a school a hop, skip and jump from my house.

Since it's Ash Wednesday, I arrived at school with ashes on my forehead that I received at Mass this morning.

The first children I tutor are kindergartners. Here's how the conversation went:

"You have black right there," pointing to my head.

"What is it?" I asked him.

"Probably a cold."

I said, "Like I'm sick?"

And another chimed in, "There's black on your brows. I don't know what it is. It looks like black hair."

When I said, "Look again," then someone saw the cross.

"A cross," I questioned, "why would that be there?"

A kindergartner replied, "Cuz God's been there."

And another child said, "Does God really be there?"

So the other child informed him, "If it has a cross--then God's been there."

"That's not true," said yet another.

So I asked, "Do you know what that means?"

And the child said, "If you love the cross, God will come to you and put a cross on your forehead...cuz it reminds you 'bout God and the cross he died on."

"How did you learn that?" I inquired further. "Did someone teach you?"

"No, I just know it! Wherever you go you can remember the cross."

His buddy said, "God died for our sins, probably that's how you got a cross on your head."

"What did He make us out of?" I questioned them again.

"Sticks and bones...and blood," they all decided.
I didn't have the heart to tell them "from dust we were made, to dust we shall return."

The kindergartners left and the third graders arrived.

"There's a cross on your forehead; it looks like you have a bruise."

"Oh," I seemed puzzled. "What does that mean?"

"God might be showing you a sign that you're doing well and he wants to praise you today."

And another student, "Are you thinking about people who died in your family?"

The first girl insisted, "He's trying to tell you a story."

The other girl continued, "I can't understand why it should be black instead of red."

"Why red?" I asked.

Their answers came spilling out.

"For love."

"Jesus blood. There was blood running down the cross."

So I told them why I received the ashes today..."From dust you came, to dust you shall return..."

Then someone posed the question, "How did people get invented?"

That half hour was over and the fifth graders arrived. They too saw the cross.

Immediately, one knew it was Ash Wednesday.

"Did you get baptized?" another asked me. "My sister got a cross on her forehead when she got baptized."

She got straightened out by the boy who knew it was Ash Wed. He told her it was "a thing at church."

So I told them that when I received the ashes these words were said, "From dust you came, to dust..."

"I'm filthy" one fifth grade girl blurted out. Then looking down, and then back up with a smile, said "rich!"

Grace & peace,


  1. Oh my goodness, Sheila, that is totally priceless. I will never ever forget that as long as I live.

    Being that I am not Catholic, I have only received the cross of ashes one time in my life when I was teaching at Immaculate Conception there in Tulsa. I will never forget how I felt that day--especially after school as I went to the grocery store.

    I knew that everyone else would know that I am a follower of Christ and I so wanted to bring glory to His Name, and not bring any reproach upon the Savior of the world--I watched every step I took, every word I said--like I should do every day anyway.

    But now every time I think about those ashes, I will think of this, "I am! Awesome, magnificent statement.

  2. "Out of the mouth of babes"... again! Delighted you thought it was priceless. The kids really cracked me up today.