I clearly remember the very first day of school. It was Kindergarten, August 1970. My mother had taken me to pre-enroll earlier that month and I went to meet the principal in his office. It was a thoroughly intimidating experience. My teacher was an older woman that looked scary to me. Now that I think about it, I had not been away from my home and my mom or my sister for longer than a few hours. No wonder everything seemed strange and scary.
By the time the first day rolled around, we had been shopping for school clothes and supplies. I was ready...sort of. My older sister (who was 20) walked me down to the bus stop. There were children of all ages there. The big yellow bus rolled up to the driveway that was the designated stop and the kids climbed onto the bus. I would not let go of my sister's hand. Nothing she could say could persuade me otherwise. So, my sister took me back home and we climbed into her car and she drove me to school. She walked me to the classroom where the kids were already playing and the teacher was talking to another parent. I still clung to my sister's hand, but she gently pried my hand off hers, kissed me and walked away. I felt bereft, abandoned, and alone. I looked around the room and decided in five seconds that the kids were weird. I think I stood exactly where my sister left me staring at the door until the teacher called the class together to do something. It felt like hours it was probably a few minutes, but I did make a new friend who came to where I stood, took my hand, and we sat down together. We were inseparable all day and many days after that one.
When that day was finally over, I reluctantly crawled inside that big, yellow school bus and found a seat. I sat there in silence as the kids were chatting animatedly about their day. The bus rolled up to the bus stop where I should have gotten off, but I was uncertain so I stayed on the bus, after all what if I got out and it was the wrong stop? The bus driver kept dropping off kids one stop at a time until he looked in the mirror and saw that I was the only one left on the bus and he had no more stops left. He asked where I lived, but I couldn't tell him. So he drove around the neighborhoods until I spotted my house.
I don't remember very much of what happened in days 2-180 of that year or any year following, but first days in many years were memorable. Beginnings can be exciting, frightening, joyous, nerve-wracking, emotion-filled, overwhelming, and bewildering. I think of people who walk into the doors of our churches feel the same sense of terrified, bewildered, and overwhelmed. I wonder if we are understanding of their anxiety.
I reflect on this as I am about to embark on a new beginning which is just as exciting and overwhelming as many of the other first days in my life. But I have found that when I am nervous about such things there are angels that give a squeeze of the hand, a hug, a kind word just at the right time. I am convinced such angels of new beginnings are there, and I have already discovered one of the angels of my new beginning, and I am eternally thankful. God does send encouragement right when I need it, if only I recognize the angel of which I might otherwise be unaware.