Oddly enough, I was out in the yard last week, pulling weeds and replacing dead plants done in by the ice storm of late January when I got a call from Leigh Ellen Bee, a teacher at Rocky Bayou Christian School. It seems she was looking for an elderly, pitiful old lady for her students to help.  

No, she didn’t say the “elderly,” “pitiful,” or “old” part; that’s just me labeling myself as usual.

Well, anyway, the proposal was to have her students perform community service in the form of yard work for a worthy Destin resident, and I was the lucky recipient. Now, I’m not one who takes help willingly, so I kinda wanted to say “No thanks.” But I knew Ms. Bee, having taught with her when I was on the faculty at Destin Christian Academy. The school is still located at the Destin First Baptist Church location, but now it’s a Rocky Bayou Christian School facility. I often drive by the school on Beach Drive and remember how much I cherished the years I spent there as teacher, counselor and the last year as librarian.

Saying “No” was clearly not an option. 

So, early one fine spring morning, even before my doorbell rang, I heard the bus pull up outside my bedroom window and spill out a troop of giggling, noisy, energetic fourth through sixth graders. Having been awake for only a few minutes and trying to function without my coffee, I greeted my landscapers, gave them my yard chore list, and supplemented the gardening tools they brought with them.   

I rather enjoyed the opportunity to teach again for a few minutes as I explained why they were not to pull up the dead ferns. Only clip them down a few inches to the ground because the tiny marble-shaped bulbs under the soil will regenerate into new growth. The greater lesson, I said, is that God always leaves a remnant. The ugly brown sticks that were once lush green stems will be cut down, but new life will come from the stubble.

 With kids, it’s hard to know when a lesson reaches the target in their minds, but I’m always optimistic.  

By noon, my yard was raked; weeds were pulled, the fig tree pruned, and all those little pesky branches blown down by the winter winds were bagged up and put curbside just in time for the Friday yard trash truck to take it all away. Everyone had worked hard.

While it’s difficult for me to accept help, I’ve come to believe in a way, those sweet children reaching out to me was some little reward for the 36 years I spent teaching and loving the hundreds of students I had in my former life. Maybe Karma for me, but I sincerely hope it was a blessing for them as they gave of themselves to help another person.

This is my thank you note to the school’s principal Joe Quilit, who came with them and worked alongside, and to their teachers, Ms. Leigh Ellen Bee and Ms. Caitlyn Williams. Thank you also to their chaperones, Cookie Pollock and Bob Flynn, for spending time with the students and modeling for them the beauty of having a servant’s heart.

And thank you, most of all, to the students who gladdened my winter soul with the spring of your laughter and the helpfulness of your hands:

Matthew Bee, Breanna Flynn, Herbie Hunter, Isaac Hunter, Elijah Pollock, Ella Joslyn, Annalise Masino, Serina Vonarx, Landon Willner, Evelynn Garrett, Keilana Quilit, Morgan Hamilton and Rilye Johnson.

I think you all made Jesus smile.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.