I voted for the first time in the year 2000.
Three months later, I got a jury summons.
The cool thing about it was that it paid $25 per day, which was a lot of money as far as I was concerned.
The drawback was that I hadn’t even graduated from high school.
Who knows how long this jury thing could last?
I didn’t want to get behind in school, so I pushed myself to get ahead, just in case I was selected for jury. I pushed myself so hard that I completed roughly a week’s worth of reading assignments each day, and by the time jury rolled around, I was nearly done with the curriculum. I completed my last assignment the first week of March.
I was not chosen for jury, so that left me with a lot of time that was full of a lot of nothing.
At that time, my family was attending a huge Evangelical Free church, and one of the pastors had invited us for dinner one day. We hadn’t interacted with anyone at any church for several years, so it was a little weird to be there. The pastor and his wife were sweet people who treated all of us younger ones like we mattered and like it was ok to contribute to society in one way or another. They kept asking us questions like, “So, what grade are you in?” and “What’s your favorite sport?”
For me, the most baffling question of all was, “Well, what are you going to do now?”
I had explained that because of the jury duty thing, I had worked hard to get done with school early. When I answered the “what are you going to do now?” question with, “I don’t know….” the pastor’s wife said, “I have an idea!”
She explained that the church was in need of people to help out with child care during their women’s Bible study, and she felt that I would probably be good at it.
I didn’t give a definite answer at the time. Because of the mindset of the people in charge of the church I spent the first 10 years of my life at, I saw myself as property of the men in my life, and I felt that I needed to have permission to work. I didn’t know a single “Christian” woman (meaning a woman who believed the stuff I had been taught all my life) who worked.
Looking back, I can see this was a pivotal moment in my life. I was being offered normalcy from a “worldly” perspective, but if I wanted to be “normal” to the world, I was going to have to choose to become “abnormal” to everybody and everything I’d known before.
What’s a girl to do?
Finally, I decided that there were certain advantages to working — even ones that would serve me well as a wife and mother, number 1 being that I was assigned to work as a tutor to home schooled kids from first grade to 4th grade. I would be learning how to teach — good skill for a future home-school mom, right?
I went to work faithfully every Tuesday morning, gathered my students together and we would learn together. I worked with a set of twins — one who was ridiculously advanced and the other was ridiculously behind. When this little boy had been in public school, his teachers had told his mom that he would not be able to learn at the same rate as his classmates and she should not expect him to satisfactorily complete the year. The mother told me all this and she said, “Just do the best you can with him. I’m not going to hold it against you if he can’t finish the curriculum by the end of the year.”
I worked with this little boy and I had the pleasure of answering his questions and explaining things as he went through his curriculum. He learned math and phonics. He had a hard time with reading comprehension, but we would talk about what things meant and every single time, he would “get” it. I loved to hear his laugh every time a lightbulb would begin to glow. This little boy also had behavioral problems, but after the first couple of weeks, those completely disappeared. He was having so much fun learning that he didn’t have time (or the desire!) to rebel. After working with him for only two months, he completed his curriculum, was much more disciplined (meaning he was able to sit still long enough to learn something), and he had discovered the joy of learning.
I consider those two months to be one of the most successful periods of my life. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a kid go from being a holy terror in school to being anxious to learn.
The Bible study was over the end of May, and I decided to spend several weeks with my grandparents. They had several guests that summer, so I got to know lots of relatives, step-relatives and step-relatives-by-marriage. My family does family. If you’re related to one of my relatives, you’re my relative, even if you’re only cousin Agnes’ step-cousin’s wife’s brother. If nothing else, we know who you are and we care about what’s going on in your life. (But maybe that’s just the small-town thing. When you sneeze in a small town, somehow, within a few hours, someone will have sent over some chicken noodle soup and everybody’s calling to ask how your cold is today.)
That summer, I helped Grandma prepare for a big old family reunion. And after the party was over, I went home to find a “real” job (You know — one that paid more than $12/week) and figure out what I was going to do with my life.