“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I have been working in The Little Red Schoolhouse with Ottawa Elementary School second and third grade classes this month. Five years ago, when developing plans and lessons, I decided it would be fun to host an old-fashioned Christmas with those age groups. Sharing what the holidays looked like in 1885 and having the children make their own ornaments became the foundation for their visits.
The ornament plans have been tweaked as we discovered what worked and what was doable in an hour with limited supplies while keeping things reasonably vintage. Second graders create paper tree ornaments and holiday cards while third graders cut snowflakes and snowflake ornaments.
The third graders are often skeptical they will be able to fold and cut a paper square into a beautiful snowflake. We begin with 8 inch pieces of white paper. I demonstrate reassuringly and walk them through the folding and cutting process, step-by-step. After they finish and open their unique snowflakes, the schoolhouse looks like a Winter Wonderland.
Recently, one boy was dubious as we moved on to folding a 4-inch square of a recycled book page that would become a tree ornament. “I have no faith that this is going to turn out good,” he told me.
“That’s OK,” I said to him. “I have faith. You’ll see. It will be beautiful.” He gave me a doubtful side-eye.
The students listened and followed directions. We waited until everyone was finished cutting, and the children unfolded their smaller snowflakes together and held them up at the same time.
It really is a magical sight. The looks on their faces as they open and see, not only their own snowflake, but also those of their classmates, is priceless. It’s a scene that never grows old.
Sometimes each of us just needs someone else to see and believe in us, even if it defies logic and we are filled with doubt. That support can be liberating. If you are unsure, allowing someone else to carry the faith gives you the freedom to proceed without any pressure on yourself.
There are times when a student cuts off too much of the folded page and the snowflake falls apart. They may feel frustrated, but I hand them another square and help them try again. Learning from our experiences is a part of life. Their second attempts have much better results and we applaud everyone’s efforts.
When we cannot see the entire staircase or path or even around the corner, it helps to have someone nearby who can encourage and sustain us. It doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. It means you are not alone. And perhaps your faith will expand and someday, you can tell another person that you have faith in them.
That boy who had no hope for his snowflake folding and cutting skills? His grin was the largest in the group when he saw his amazing snowflake.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Karen Roth is a semiretired librarian/educator living in Ottawa. She can be reached at email@example.com.