I remember walking past Mitch and Sue, my Sunday School teachers, on Christmas Eve service in about 4th grade. I was a shy kid, and I often preferred adult company to kids. I liked to be treated like a grown up and to have conversations. Mitch and Sue, a couple I'm guessing in their mid to late 20s, were pros at this. And when they smiled and waved at me that Christmas Eve, I remember being so pleased. They were grown-ups who were my friends.
The church we went to until I was 11 wasn't particularly small, but there were very few kids my age and the only other girl was a snooty snoot from the wealthy kids' school. Most of the other kids were hit or miss on attendance, but the Huisman family was not. Unless visiting relatives, we were there every Sunday. That meant, as often as not, I was the only kid who showed up for Sunday School.
Mitch and Sue were always there waiting for me, and then we waited together to see if another kid would show up. They would ask me about school, what I was learning, what I was reading. They were sooo cool.
One time when no one else showed up, they invited me to go to Mr. Donut, a chain donut shop, with them. I must have asked my parents for permission, but I don't remember. I only remember sitting in the back seat of their car, talking about my school as we passed it and how I got to walk home by myself. Then I remember sitting at a stool at the counter of the Mr. Donut. I got to pick out my favorite: a cake donut covered in a hard frosting shell and stuck on a stick. I preferred mine with pink frosting and sprinkles, connoisseur that I was.
And there we sat. Just me and my buddies, Mitch and Sue, shooting the breeze and having a donut at the counter on our stools. Like grown ups.
One could probably argue that this wasn't the best use of church time. Other Sunday School teachers I had certainly were more likely to stay on lesson plan and to force me to memorize my Bible verses. But what Mitch and Sue gave me as Sunday School teachers was less about the intricacies of the Gospels and more about the lived expectations embedded in the messages of the Gospels. Be good to others, even small others. Be gentle and loving and respectful. Be generous with your time...and your donut money.
Truth is, I couldn't tell you the names of any of my more structured Sunday School teachers, save one (Fern Swanson, bless her heart). Mitch and Sue are really the only ones who made a lasting impact because they valued me as a person and loved me as their Sunday School student. They were excited to see me at Christmas Eve and showed me with that friendly smile and wave as I passed, which is more than any other teacher had ever done, but all just like Jesus would do.
But I bet Jesus would have let me have two donuts...