It rained the day of my second-grade Easter egg hunt, so our room mothers hid all the eggs inside the classroom. This was back in the day when we called it an “Easter Egg Hunt,” not a “Spring Fling” or other such nonsense. Only one child won a prize for finding the Golden Egg, and the rest of us didn’t flip-out, and we used real boiled eggs that we had cooked and decorated ourselves at home with minimal hovering from our mothers. Oh, and for the record, no one worried about the eggs going bad in the three or four hours it took to carry them to school, hide and then eat them. No one had to be rushed to the hospital for botulism, and everyone had a lovely time.
After the party, we left for a week-long spring break, but upon returning, discovered something was wrong. Very wrong. As I sat at my desk, my eyes started to water, which wasn’t alarming to my teacher, Miss Dunn, because I cried a lot, usually because boys scared me or I wanted to be home playing with my baby brother. Oh, and I cried when it was math time too. I was younger than most kids in the class, and at six years old, was a stressed-out little girl.
But something in the air really was stinging my eyes and burning my nose. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it grew stronger by the minute. Eventually, the other kids started looking around and and sniffing the air.
Miss Dunn walked up and down the aisles between the desks, and finally stopped beside me. “What is that smell?” she asked as she crinkled up her nose.
Definitely not what you want your teacher saying, right there in front of everyone. The other children started to snicker, and I could barely breath. “Everyone clear out your desks” she instructed. I obediently pulled everything out of my tidy desk, and when I stuck my little fingers into the far back corner, discovered a week-old, rotten, disgusting, smelly boiled Easter egg.
Pinching her nose, the bossiest girl in the class, Louella Rae, pointed her finger at me and squealed, “Eeww!”
I was humiliated and had no idea how the egg got in my desk. Did I accidentally leave it there? Was it hidden there during the party?
My darling teacher saw I was teetering on the edge of a meltdown, and rushed to my side and gave a little laugh, “Isn’t this amazing!” she said. “The mothers surely did a good job hiding those eggs, didn’t they!” She scooped up the yuck with a paper towel and flung it into the garbage can, then told one of the boys to empty it outside in the dipsy-dumpster, which was a great privilege for him.
Miss Dunn beamed at me, “What a clever girl you are for finding that mess!”
What? I was the hero?
Louella Rae gave me a double, “thumbs-up.”
Miss Dunn acted like the nasty egg was no big deal, and was perhaps the most amusing thing she’d ever seen. She gave my pony tail a friendly flip, then got back to teaching.
My lip stopped quivering and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Instead of blaming me for the rancid odor, Miss Dunn had given comfort. Just when I was headed for humiliation and shame, she offered grace and redemption — just like the real Easter story.
Every day, in small human ways, we too can put that powerful story into action and reflect the love that helps the broken to be made whole, and the grieving to rejoice. From the darkest of places, fresh new beginnings can be launched.
A teacher’s act of compassion to a timid child turned the situation around and I was instantly changed from “damaged” to “treasured.” It was a small, yet powerful lesson from a rotten Easter egg, I’ll always remember.