July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:04 PM
"Be Glad. Be Good. Be Brave.- Eleanor Hodgman Porter, PollyannaAren't we something? We have retailers hauling out skiing penguin lawn ornaments blinking with color and blaring We Wish You a Merry Christmas long before Halloween. Contrast this sensory overload with a neighboring Western Washington school district which has decided that political correctness, issue avoidance, and naked trees make perfect sense. They will watch their students and faculties like hawks to insure that all hints of anything deemed religious stay outside the hallowed halls of learning.As I stood in front of my television, listening to their spokesperson spout off a flurry of psycho-speak in her attempts to justify such cleansing, I recalled one of my most treasured classroom memories. It was the day before winter break, 1971, and Miss Maggie Marsh, my sixth grade teacher, agreed that a party to fill out the remaining two hours of classroom time was definitely in order. We were squirrelly and wiggly and ready for a break in the school routine. We were also social butterflies - just beginning to stretch our wings - who filled this particular classroom with personality, and then some. A party was eagerly anticipated and a number of parents happily took on the task of preparing food and games ahead of time.We decided as a class that families would bring in food and games to represent the religious traditions enjoyed at home during the break. Some kids brought in their favorite tree ornaments and hung them with pride. Mothers hauled in tasty confections that not only tempted the taste buds but also bedazzled the eyes. My mother brought in cherry bonbon cookies and gingerbread boys and girls, purposefully left undecorated. When she showed the kids how to pipe on the frosting and use it like glue to cement the variety of decorative sprinkles purchased for the event, the kids dove in with eagerness.Some of my classmates had never before decorated cookies with a parent. Others had never tasted homemade frosting made with butter and heavy cream.The best of ingredients for the best of kids, my mother told them.My classmate David was Jewish and while he and his family did not purchase a tree to decorate like the majority of families, he enjoyed a number of colorful and meaningful ways to celebrate Chanukah and eagerly shared his family's traditions with the rest of us.David's mom was a dainty but feisty redhead with energy to spare. She brought in music and taught us a dance, the steps of which I can still recall. She also brought in several dreidels, carefully explaining before we played that the Hebrew letters contained on the tops were Nes, Gadol, Hayah, and Sham, meaning, A miracle happened there.To top it all off and to balance the sugar overload we were experiencing, Mrs. Weiss brought in her electric skillet and fixed us potato latkes, frying them to golden brown then encouraging us to top them with a dollop of applesauce or sour cream - our choice!It was at that point, as I recall, that Don Ski - one of the cutest guys in the classroom - decided to impress a small group of us girls by eating his plastic spoon.1971 was an eventful year. The United States assisted a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The air war was also intensified as U.S. bombing missions were increased over Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Through the later months of 1971, American withdrawal from Vietnam continued, but with little apparent effect. With our growing awareness of world events came some near-adult worries. I watched as two of the neighbor boys headed off to the war. The ancient traditions of faith, shared briefly in my classroom, were comforting and unifying. Not one child or family was offended. After all, they were not evangelized. We celebrated the diversity and embraced the beautiful tastes, sights, and sounds of faith.I saw David, in particular, in a different way from that moment on. It seemed to me he was a deeper and richer person than I had known before. Other kids made significant connections as well and were glad to see my mom whenever they caught sight of her volunteering at the school.So let us enter this holiday season with a new resolve: to be glad. And good. And brave - even when it feels like our color is being stripped away. And during those times when we are silent about personal thoughts on faith, may love and compassion and commitment speak loudly, soothing the souls of those around us. -----------Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and former editor of Christian books published by Gospel Light Publications. She can be reached at email@example.com. "