We’re a good ways past Valentine’s Day, but something happened this year that has stayed with me. It was a clear example of the love and thoughtfulness that not only makes holidays special but sustains us throughout the rest of the year.

It happened quite unexpectedly as I was dropping my children off at their tiny Sunday school class with their stalwart and faithful teacher, Ms. Sandra. Ms. Sandra is the type of person I want to be just like when I grow up. She greets her Sunday school charges like she’s been dying to see them all week, and she attends to them with endless patience. If I have occasion to visit her class, I usually find the children gathered around a table happily coloring or playing a game together and taking turns answering bible questions.

On a quick side note, I feel very fortunate that our church has been able to begin meeting during the pandemic. All attendees wear masks as they have since we began gathering once again after having gone online with services for a time. It’s a blessing to be able to feel safe seeing my neighbors in this setting as our church has stuck resolutely with safety protocols (masks at all times and no singing or hand shaking, along with distancing in the pews, etc …).

This past Valentine’s Day, I entered our church’s fellowship hall with my two little ones to find that Ms. Sandra had a stained glass painting activity set up. After settling my children at the table to begin their project, I noticed a row of paper bags on a table nearby. On each one was a child’s name and a customized, hand-drawn picture. My son’s bag had a little green amphibian on it with the accompanying message “You’re toad-aly awesome.”

I later learned that Ms. Sandra’s daughter Carrie, who was visiting for the weekend and is an educator, had taken the time to customize these bags herself. Each bag contained candy and toys they had picked out with specific class members in mind. I was deeply touched by the gesture, and I thanked Carrie for the time she spent on the artwork.

I was also affected when I considered the planning that went into this project, and I know neither of these ladies expected any accolades. (Recognition in front of thousands of readers very well might be a little over the top in their eyes, now that I think of it.) Their thoughtfulness, along with Ms. Sandra’s week-in-week-out commitment to young people is inspiring. Her leadership and guidance make church an enjoyable and educational fellowship gathering that my kids look forward to, and I am grateful.

That said, let’s take the next paragraph to backtrack a little. Notice I said I want to be just like Ms. Sandra, but I’m not exactly sure I’m on that path. You see, I don’t think I have her ability to charm these small people into a calm state in which they soak up every available word of Bible teaching.

For instance, Ms. Sandra has likely never gradually lost control of the dialogue and reached a point where an unplanned drink break results in what seems like a half gallon of water being sloshed across the fellowship hall floor. She has likely not witnessed, with panic, four delighted little people embarking on an indoor splashing adventure while she desperately attempts to discourage them and dab at the mess using the only four paper towels available, all the while praying that the sanctuary actually is far enough away that the congregation does not become aware of the chaos. Ahem. And I’m going to stop here lest I never, ever get watch the children during church again.

But what I can do is try. I may not have Ms. Sandra’s composure or planning abilities, but I can certainly absorb her intentions from Valentine’s Day and so many other days and try to pass on her example to my children and the other young people I come across. She probably thought she was just putting together a nice little activity and gift to help celebrate a holiday, but what she actually was doing was inspiring other adults with her display of faith and love.

Elizabeth Crumbly is a newspaper veteran and freelance writer. She lives in rural Northwest Georgia where she teaches riding lessons, writes and raises her family. You can correspond with her at www.collective-ink.com.

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