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Back to School with Pauline Priorities

  • Mitali Perkins Contributing Writer
  • 2006 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Back to School with Pauline Priorities

True confessions: my Type-A husband and I were both nerds in high school. In addition to getting good grades, the pages of our respective yearbooks feature dorky, 1970s versions of ourselves trying a wide range of activities ranging from the magic club (him) to tennis (me).

We went on to attend one of those universities full of other Type-A folk, and as a result, most of our lifelong friends fit into the "high-achieving" category. "Yes, yes, that stuff's not important," we'd tell each other in Bible Study as the Apostle Paul denounced his secular resume in his letter to the Philippians:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.

"Paul's right, he's right, it's all rubbish compared to knowing Jesus," we said earnestly. But did we really believe it?

Then God, in His wonderful grace, saw fit to make us parents of a pair of identical, introverted, extreme type-B-ish twins. When the boys finished sixth grade, they brought home their yearbook and we began flipping through it together. Oh, no, I thought. There's no sign of them ANYWHERE. It's like they were INVISIBLE all year. Aren't they feeling lousy about themselves?

I glanced at their faces. No, they were cheerfully pointing out photos of friends trying and excelling at sports, theater, music, writing, honor society, chess. Meanwhile, I was feeling worse and worse. They would never know the ease of being a "shining star" in school, winning kudos from peers and teachers alike. Life isn't fair, I thought glumly.

That's when we got to the very last page of the yearboook. Pictured there was one of the friends the boys had known for years -- Brian Reddy. In the third grade, Brian had been diagnosed with leukemia. He'd fought it valiantly and hopefully, even when he had to come to school in a wheelchair. But by the time sixth grade started, Brian simply didn't have the strength to make it into school. He was so frail that all but essential visits were forbidden.

A school aide brought his homework to him, and when the holidays rolled around, she asked what he wanted for Christmas. "I want to see my buddies," Brian said.

"I think I can make that happen," she said. "Which ones?"

Without hesitation, Brian named our boys.

"Anyone else?" the aide asked.

"Nope," he said. "Just them."

The boys spent a wonderful day at the Reddy's place, eating pizza and watching a tape of Brian's beloved Red Sox play ball. It was good that they saw him when they did. Brian died three weeks later; his family, the school, and the community mourned; our boys were brokenhearted.

Now it was June, six months later, and here was a picture of Brian smiling joyfully up at us. "Look, Mom," one of my sons said quietly, pointing to the bottom of the page. There, underneath Brian's photo, our sons had been asked to write paragraphs of tribute describing their buddy, his cheerfulness, his love of baseball, his sense of humor.

And that's when the truth finally sunk into my type-A brain. Our so-called "underachieving" sons had managed to secure the most Pauline-esque title in the whole yearbook. They would go down in history as "Brian's Good Friends," and what could be a greater honor than that?

Originally posted August 18, 2006.


Rob and I are off to celebrate twenty (!) years of marriage, so I'll be back blogging 8/31. Entries are cross-posted on my weblog about parenting and pop culture, and I invite your comments and responses there.

Mitali Perkins is a freelance writer who has lived in Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Ghana, Cameroon, and Austria, and has traveled extensively throughout Asia. Her fiction for youth includes Monsoon Summer, and her articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Christian Parenting Today, Discipleship Journal, Prism, U.S. Catholic, Campus Life, and Presbyterians Today. Visit her weblog at http://ambassadorfamilies.blogspot.com/ and post your comments there.