As I clicked “publish” on my blog post, I had a faint hope that I would find my fifth-grade English teacher, Ms. Saucier. The blog post was titled “If Jesus were a fifth-grade teacher.” I had lost touch with Ms. Saucier several years before and despite online searches, I had come up with nothing. The blog post was both a tribute and a last-ditch effort to find her.
One night when my daughter was in kindergarten I was putting her down to sleep, and as I was leaving the room, she said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
I arrived at the DMV late on a Friday afternoon, hoping to get my driver’s license without suffering through a long wait. I never imagined the monumentally awful experience that was about to unfold.
For a period of time in third grade, I cringed when it came time to pay for my lunch — there wasn’t enough money for us to pay for it. I felt humiliated by getting free lunch. I had seen kids walk up to the lunch lady without handing her any change and I had looked down on them. Now I was one of those kids.
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
It was 1988 in Petal, Mississippi, and I was in love. My third-grade student teacher, Ms. Smith, had stolen my heart. Ms. Smith was pretty, with her long brown hair and that tiny ponytail on the top of her head that poofed up. But it was more than her looks that made me swoon — Ms. Smith likedme. That wasn’t always the case with my teachers, and for good reason.
When I was five years old, I was playing outside one day when a wild man in an old truck sped into our driveway and slammed on the breaks. Thank God my dad was there. “Get your boy out here!” yelled the middle-aged man, who threatened to assault my 12-year-old brother, whom he accused of something. I couldn’t hear what the accusation was –all I knew was that the man was serious. As it turned out, however, my dad was more serious.
Today is the 15th birthday of a young man named Canaan Rogers. This birthday was not supposed to happen. When Canaan, my nephew, was seven months old, he nearly died because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis of a serious illness. By the time the doctors figured out what was really going on, it was too late. Canaan was all but gone.
This week I had two opportunities to appear on “Fox and Friends,” the top morning show on cable TV. It caught me by surprise, but it happened because of my FoxNews.com op-ed “What happened when my daughter saw me kiss my wife.”
I remember the night my parents split up. My older brother Caleb came into my bedroom and whispered that Mom and Dad were in the kitchen talking about divorce. We weren’t surprised.
An eight-year-old girl broke my heart on the metro last year. Her name was Briana.
When I was seven years old, my dad took my brother and me on a hike around our small town in south Mississippi. That hike would turn into one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday. I took my three kids to the service by myself because my wife wasn’t feeling well. The journey started out well enough — we were in the car and only running 12 minutes behind when we pulled out of the driveway. But it was all downhill from there.
I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him. Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin. Jeffrey didn’t seem to care. We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes. This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.