From Connections: Left Behind: Not exactly the secret rapture

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas---Mr. Gardner was a good man by all accounts. He was a dedicated, decent, moral individual. He was my ninth-grade algebra teacher. The fall of 1969 seems like a long time ago, and I guess it is, but I'll never forget the trauma of entering that classroom and discovering I was in a black hole I was sure I could never crawl out of.

I'm not talking about the first day of school. I'm referring to the first day of class after returning from the Feast of Tabernacles. I had spent a glorious week running around the piney woods campground in Big Sandy, and now the piper demanded to be paid. I wasn't a complete idiot. I did all the easy homework; the history reading, the English paper and the Spanish. I just couldn't bring myself to wade through that algebra book that I didn't really have a good grasp of to begin with.

Poster child

My teacher, Mr. Gardner, had done a good job of warning me that this was not a good time to be absent from class for such an extended period. Mathematics has never been my favorite subject, but before I left for the Feast I had been doing okay. When I returned I was left behind. "No child left behind" had not yet become a popular political slogan.

I could've been Dubyah's poster child. My fellow classmates were doing things with numbers and letters I had never seen before. I entered that classroom every day, slumping in my desk to avoid being seen by Mr. Gardner. I couldn't imagine anything worse than being called on to go to the blackboard to work out a problem I had no idea how to solve.

This was the first time I was in jeopardy of receiving a failing grade, and, with the grading period coming to an end in just a few short days, I lived in fear that that's exactly what would happen. By the grace of God and Mr. Gardner, I squeaked by, but just barely.

By the next grading period I had managed to claw my way out of that big dark hole I had fallen in and find some steadier ground. I wish I could say that, thanks to a lot of hard work and dedicated teachers, I've overcome all of my mathematical disabilities.

You can take it with you

Sadly, I admit that, without the aid of pencil and paper, I still add and subtract in the air and use the palm of my hand as an eraser when I've made a mistake or lost my train of thought.

As much as we love to observe the Feast, it isn't always convenient to leave behind school and work. Nor is it easy to return to a world that has gone on without you. In many cases adults can schedule vacation time to coincide with taking off for the Feast. But taking off for the Feast can be particularly upsetting for youngsters in school. School doesn't close down, and teachers don't slow their curricula for you. Being left behind is not a pleasant place to find yourself.

All in all, it could be worse. For some reason my family likes to travel in a convoy when embarking on any type of extended trip. I guess it's the herd mentality. One year on the way to St. Petersburg for the Feast several families decided the safest and most enjoyable way to travel would be to all depart at the same time and drive caravan style. When one vehicle stopped, everyone stopped. (You can extend your driving time by at least 50 percent this way.)

Pizza the Hut

After one such stop at Pizza Hut, everyone piled back into his vehicle and started down the road again, anxious to arrive at St. Pete. With a few miles behind them and a little time to rewind the brain processes, it began to slowly dawn on a few of the more responsible (?) in the group that they had failed to account for one of the smaller boys in the merry band of Feastgoers.

Immediately pulling over to the side of the road and scouring all the other vehicles with no success, the entire caravan retraced its path back to the Pizza Hut. There he was, lost and forlorn standing out in front of the restaurant. He had been taking care of business when everyone deserted him.

When my family members say "load up," they mean it. The sickly and weak don't stand a chance. Those who can't keep up with the herd fall by the wayside. I may never have developed into a math whiz, but at least I've never been left in the rest room.

I got through that first year of algebra and continued to take, with the urging of my high-school counselor, other courses of math that were just as baffling. What was I thinking? I had already sworn off caravaning, so in later years I basically just needed enough math skills to do a head count of my kids. For years I've tried to make sure no child, or at least none of mine, is left behind.

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