Susannah May Farmer felt guilty. It was almost time for Primary class to begin, and the kids were gathered in the hall, talking. Two girls were whispering behind their hands about the new family. “Well, I think she looks stuck-up,” one said, looking sideways at the older girl who was walking down the hallway toward the earliteen class.
And secretly, Susannah agreed! The most beautiful girl she’d ever seen, with her long, shiny, black hair, and warm, light brown skin, and dark eyes . . . but stuck-up.
That’s why Susannah felt guilty.
The new family was the very one who had been building the fantastic new house right next door to Susannah’s farm. The “castle,” as she and her friends called it, was almost finished. She had been divided between looking forward to new neighbors, and nervousness. After all, what would such rich people have in common with her, a poor farm girl? They could afford enough horses to fill the huge stable they had built, and she couldn’t even afford another plastic collectible horse!
Susannah didn’t usually think of herself as “poor.” But when she had seen a shiny black sports car pull up to the new house earlier in the week, she had known that even if there was a kid her age in that family, they could never be friends.
Today, the same black car had pulled up to the Seventh-day Adventist church. Susannah was astonished. It had never occurred to her that the rich family would be Adventist. Besides the man, there was a woman with a lacy scarf covering her hair, the teenage girl, and wouldn’t you know it—a Primary-age boy! Not that Susannah minded—some of her best friends were boys—but she had been so hoping there would be a girl. There were enough boys at her house! The man seemed lively and friendly, but no one else in the family had said a word yet. Stuck-up! No doubt about it.
Ms. Kimoto called the class to come in and sit down. Susannah went in with Mike and Matt. The new boy didn’t seem to want to come in. Ms. Kimoto went out and talked with him and his mother, and they both came in. The mother sat in the back of the class. Several people snickered. What a baby!
Susannah felt guilty.
“Class,” Ms. Kimoto said, “we have visitors today, but not for long! When their new house is finished, the El-Charifs (she said it “el-sharEEFS”) will be members here at our church! I want you to welcome Solomon and Mrs. El-Charif today and show them what a friendly class you can be.” Susannah saw her glance toward the girls who had giggled, and felt guiltier than ever.
Solomon didn’t say a word. He didn’t even smile. When they sang, his mouth moved a little, but you couldn’t hear anything.
At Bible story time, Ms. Kimoto was talking about the burning bush. “God told Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground,” she said. Instead of paying attention, Susannah was trying to sneak peeks at Solomon and decide if he would possibly ever be friendly.
“Why did God tell Moses to take off his shoes?” someone asked.
“That was a way of showing reverence in the land where Moses lived,” Ms. Kimoto explained.
“That’s weird!” one of the girls said, and they snickered again.
Because she was looking at him, Susannah saw Solomon’s face come alive suddenly. “What’s weird about it?” he demanded.
Everybody looked at him, but nobody knew what to say.
“We take off our shoes even in our house,” Solomon said, “and at my uncle’s mosque, which is like a church, everybody takes their shoes off to show their reverence!”
“You do? Why?”
“It’s our custom,” Solomon said.
“That’s very interesting,” Ms. Kimoto said. “In my native country, Japan, people take off their shoes indoors too. It’s considered polite to offer guests soft slippers to wear. What are some other customs that can show respect or reverence?”
“I thought reverence meant you had to be quiet in church,” Matt said.
“That’s our custom,” Ms. Kimoto agreed. “In some places shouting praises is considered reverent.”
“In the Bible, they sometimes danced to praise God,” Mike said.
“My mother wears her head-covering to show reverence and respect,” Solomon said.
Everyone turned to look at his mother, who looked embarrassed.
“Don’t stare,” Ms. Kimoto reminded them. “That’s one way we show respect too.”
“I do not mind,” Mrs. El-Charif said. Her voice was quiet and had a strong accent. “When I was young I wore a head-covering because I was taught that I must. It was a rule—even a law. I never thought about it. Now that I know Jesus, everything is different. I think about what I do, and why. I have decided I still like my head-covering. It is a custom that makes me feel comfortable. In my heart, it shows respect for Jesus.”
As the lesson concluded, Susannah was starting to feel very different about the new family. Maybe they weren’t stuck-up. Maybe they were just shy as most people would be in a new place. Especially a new place where people had giggled and stared instead of being friendly! She felt guilty again, but this time she knew what to do about it. She silently asked Jesus to forgive her. Then she smiled at the new boy. “Solomon, this is my brother, Matt, and our friend, Mike. Would you like to sit with us while we make the fingerprint family?”
Solomon’s face lit up with a huge grin. “I’d like to. And call me Solly!” He went to his mother and whispered something to her, and she smiled and left the room. Then Solly came back to his three new friends. “I’m glad you’re so friendly,” he whispered. “At first, I thought everybody seemed so stuck-up!”
Susannah wouldn’t tell the boys why she put her hands over her face and laughed.