Lady Pastor: Lessons learned from monkeying around
Summertime is Vacation Bible School time in many congregations. We held ours last week. It was an incredibly fun, energizing time filled with amazing kids and fantastic volunteers.
This year during VBS week, I accidentally frightened some of the children during the opening skit. Oops! Let me tell you a tale about a lesson learned in appreciating all perspectives.
Each day during the opening time of Vacation Bible School, there is a skit. Our youth director, Anna, did a terrific job writing this year's dramas. My role was simple. Act like a different animal every day. Each day featured a different country. Our overall VBS theme was about showing kindness, love and forgiveness to all our neighbors of the world. During the skits, the daily animal would share the theme of the day with the kids. The first day we explored Japan. My part: Mayako the Monkey.
A bit of background: Most years, my VBS performances have been fairly lackluster. As one who still secretly dreams of becoming an actress, you wouldn't know it from my part in the skits. This year, I was determined to take it up a notch and really embody the different animals to which I was assigned. I imagined myself being funny, friendly and entertaining throughout the week as a monkey, swan and kangaroo.
But when the time came, all did not go as planned. I put on my monkey mask, stepped out onto the drama area, and started acting like a monkey. Jumping. Making monkey-like sounds. There were giggles and smiles (from what I could tell through the eye-holes of my mask). Then I was supposed to go out into the crowd and announce, "Neighbors are friendly." So I did. But the microphone volume was extra loud and the monkey mask muffled my voice so I sounded like one part robot and two parts escaped zoo animal.
And that's when I heard it. A few crying children!
"Scary monkey!" one yelled.
"Oh no! Oh dear!" I thought. I quickly removed my mask to show that I was not a scary or mean monkey. Instead, I was just friendly Pastor Emily. The crying stopped, but I was mortified. What had gone wrong?
Well — a little something called perception! The big kids loved Mayako and thought the whole situation as hilarious, but that's because they knew it was just me behind a monkey mask. The littlest people in the group didn't know it was me. They perceived something different.
I should have taken the time to imagine the skit from all viewpoints. What a good reminder that we all experience the world a little differently! Whether it's a work meeting, the health of a relationship, or an event from the past, we all perceive these parts of life differently. No two people are exactly alike. It's always good to try and imagine situations from the viewpoints of other people.
As you can imagine, I will probably never hear the end of this. I've deservedly been getting teased all week about my stint as Mayako the Mistakenly Mean Monkey. At the grocery store, several parents said with a smile, "So, I heard you scared the kids today." And right before the second day's skit, one of the older kids said, "Remember when you made those kids cry?" "Yes, I remember," I said. "And I still feel awful!"
The good news: My remaining animal performances were not nearly as fear-inducing as the first. The kids mostly ate it up. And hopefully the skits were a fun way to introduce our daily themes.
I learned a few valuable lessons from the monkey-performance fiasco. No. 1: Always take time to imagine the VBS skits (and the rest of life) from other people's perspectives. No. 2: It might be time to let the acting dream go. And No. 3: Vacation Bible School is one of my very favorite weeks of the year.