I am a baby boomer. I can tell if I’m talking to a fellow baby boomer if I ask such questions as: “Does Gomer Pyle ring a bell with you?” and it rings a bell with them. I don’t mean the reruns on TV land, but the original TV series. The thing I remember most about Gomer was his exclamation: “SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!” It drove his commanding officer, Sergeant Carter, up the wall.
Life does have its surprises all right. Some good, and some not so much. One of my autism traits is my need for routine and so I don’t necessarily welcome surprises. Even good surprises can give me some anxiety until the surprise wears off.
One of those things I am surprised to be doing is working in the same school district I grew up in. I am a substitute teacher’s aide where I work in elementary schools. I’m often flooded with my own school memories as I go about my job from one school to another.
I recall the subject I dreaded most was a favorite of many of my peers – Physical Education (P.E.). With a weight problem and awkwardness, P.E. was a humbling experience. I scored high in the classroom but fell behind on the playground and ball field. Sometimes on my rump!
If someone had told me back when I was attending an elementary school that when I got to be 58, I would return to that same school to fill in as the P.E. coach’s sidekick, I would have told the person they had a wilder imagination than I did. That’s saying a lot because my imagination was and still is off the charts. It sure threw me a curveball to not only be working in a gym class but above all, to like it! I have become an avid walker, tennis player, and I even shoot baskets! Instead of at the age of 8, but at 58.
I did return to my old school recently to fill in for the P.E. aide while she was out for a day. I was escorting the 5th-grade girls out to the court to play volleyball. One of the girls came up to me and asked, “How old are you?” Now I’m on my 4th school year and if I had a quarter of every time I’ve been asked that, I could buy lunch at McDonald’s. Now I could have taken a serious tone and advised her not to ask older women their ages. Or, I could have given a cute answer such as “39 and holding”. She probably wouldn’t have believed the holding bit anyway. I could have pled ignorance or pled the 5th. But this was the last class of the day and I was tired. I just told her the truth.
She said, “My Mom is thirty-three.” I thought, “So what?”, but minding my manners, I only thought it. Sometimes I say too much and this was one of those times. I told the youngster I went to this school back when I was her age. Her eyes lit up and she said, “Really!” I nodded and said, “Yelp. No kidding.” I surprised her but she had a bigger surprise for me with her comeback answer: “My goodness, this school must be REALLY old.” She was quite empathic about the “really old” part as if she was referring way back to the “horse and buggy” days. My heart dropped knowing I walked right into that one.
The girls were learning to play volleyball. One of the few things I could do in P.E. that I had some success at was serving the ball in volleyball. I was far more confident on a volleyball court than let’s say a baseball diamond where I was terrified with fear that when the bat met ball, the ball would make a beeline towards me. Seeing that the girls were novices, I took the ball and served it. After a successful demonstration of what a volleyball serve looked like, I heard some “WOW”s from the girls. I surprised them all right! I sort of surprised myself since I couldn’t remember the last time I served a volleyball.
Although I am shy of surprises, I am thankful for them too. If the Lord gave us the blueprint of our entire life on this earth at the start of it, we’d be strangers to hope. If our lives were neatly planned and organized, no surprises, there’d be no reason for faith. I’d rather be thrown a curveball every now and then than live without any hope of something good happening around the corner.