Singing each other’s names

Pastoral Messages | November 18, 2020

As I write this, I can hear my kids doing remote school with their amazing teachers here in Davenport (Thank you, teachers!). I am continually distracted by the unexpected joy of my third-grade daughter learning multiplication through a screen. It turns out remote math can be fun when you have an encouraging teacher wearing a Troll’s headband and an enormous smile. Next, my attention turns to my son singing with his kindergarten teacher.

Singing is an essential part of kindergarten, especially with the amazing Ms. Thomas. Back when they were in person for school, they’d do all the beginning of the day stuff – saying the pledge of allegiance, going over the schedule, and talking about the weather. Then Ms. Thomas would sing a song to say good morning and welcome everybody, by name, to school.

The thing was, the students sitting at circle time were only part of the class. Our kids began this year doing in-person learning half-time with half their classmates, to allow for social distancing. But, for the last weeks, Ms. Thomas has been including all the kids’ names in this morning song. My son hasn’t been just singing good morning to the kids in Group B, but he’s been learning the names of the kids in Group A, too. In telling us about this, Ms. Thomas said, “I really hope that sometime this year we’ll all be together, and when we are, I want them all to know each other.”

Ms. Thomas is teaching her students more than just the ABCs. She is teaching them how to be community. They are learning we belong to each other, and that “we” is more than just the people who are sitting right next to us. The circle is so much bigger.

Most of us, these days, are limiting our gatherings with others. The isolation and sadness of this can be wearying. It feels especially challenging as we think about the holidays ahead, unable to have our tables filled with family and friends, unable to gather to sing our thanks to God.

But just like Ms. Thomas reminded our kids, the circles in which we sit are always incomplete. There are more who surround us than we can see. Just because we are not in physical proximity with one another doesn’t mean we are not bound up in relationship with one another. Just because we are at a distance doesn’t mean we are not connected.

So let’s keep singing each other’s names, in our prayers and through our actions. When you are alone, know you are remembered, and your name held close in the heart of others. When you are afraid or anxious about what will come, know that you are not alone. When a challenge is too great to bear, reach out to others, because we carry one another’s burdens. When love is hard to give, lean into grace for yourself and others, because life is hard for most of us these days.

We belong to each other. So we keep singing each other’s names, until we’re all gathered together again.

-Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

7 Comments on “Singing each other’s names”

  • Ronda Bird

    November 22, 2020 at 10:39 am


  • Katie Hanson

    November 21, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    What a wonderful teacher and what a wonderful reminder of how, with effort, we can build community. Thanks for this lovely message.

  • Linda Dowd

    November 20, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you for recognizing Kari! She is a remarkable teacher and person. It is a joy to work with Kari. She lights up our school with joy and love.

  • Cindy Broadie

    November 20, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Our principal shared your message with staff and as I read it I was tearing up! Thank you for this lovely and encouraging article. Even though I work at the school, I am not aware of all the wonderful things going on inside the classrooms. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Karen Dickman

    November 19, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you, Sara! Beautiful thoughts, especially appreciated by a retired first grade and preschool teacher!
    Karen Dickman PS Dennis and I appreciate so much the Sunday virtual services from St. Paul, always creative and true to the biblical text! Fantastic music as well!

  • Sheila Mesick

    November 19, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    A beautiful example to make a very good point. Thank you Sara!

  • Connie King

    November 19, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Really needed to hear this! Thank you.

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