Thud! A second grader’s art bag has overturned, spilling its contents all over the floor. No, he isn’t drowning in a crowd of students stepping over him and shoving to get around the mess. Instead, it appears every child within earshot has stopped and literally dropped everything to lend a hand. When they surface, it’s big grins all around. These eight-year-olds are living the Theology of the Body.
Just a year and a half ago they were introduced to St. John Paul II’s teaching, and already they have truly begun to embrace it. How do I know? The first and nearly immediate change I witnessed was the way they carried themselves. They were so affirmed in knowing that God loves them so much that He made them in His own image that they could not help but stand a little taller.
Soon after, I began to see them becoming gentler with each other. Ours is a fairly affluent private school where many students carry a heavy burden of high expectations for achievement. This can materialize as students becoming extremely competitive over even the smallest things. Crying over losing a classroom game would not have been uncommon. But suddenly I was noticing students complimenting each other, and even working together to help the other gain success. Even students who had once struggled to get along seemed to jump at the chance to offer help. It was happening all the time, and it was not for show.
Much like the disruptive moment when nearly the entire class felt compelled to stop everything to pick up the art bag contents, little Theology of the Body “giving of self” moments became commonplace at the school. One recent visitor commented that she could not recall the last time a person, let alone an elementary school-aged person had held the door for her. I wasn’t surprised though. In fact, upon reflection, I realized that I hardly ever open a door at school as the students often rush to be the one to hold it for the rest of us. Thanks to Theology of the Body, they know the joy of the authentic gift of self. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are alive here, and we are all feeling that joy!
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