Among other duties, I have the privilege of teaching a PreK-3 class at TSCS. It is a funny, wild, brilliant, and delightful class of thirteen tiny humans who are learning all sorts of things and carrying me along with them in their daily explorations.
As you can imagine, the peacocks on our campus held a great fascination for my young students.
To begin with, the peacocks were housed outside a building not in our Early Childhood World. This means our weekly hikes to visit the bodacious birds took what seemed approximately two hours, seventeen minutes just to get there and back. These were slow, meandering treks with the prized hope of seeing peafowl feathers flexed in glory. The walks required vigilance as I made sure we all stayed together – but oh the joy on those little faces when they spotted the juvenile peacocks strutting around and noted how they had grown since the week before! It was a bit of paradise.
Secondly, we shared many talks about God as Creator while watching the young birds in awe. The students marveled at their crowns and beaks, how they loved bugs but didn’t eat grass, and how some of their feathers were starting to change colors.
One happy Friday we were incidentally joined by Dr. John Mark Reynolds, who paused to admire them with us. Patiently and thoughtfully, he answered endless three-year-old questions about why some birds were smaller than others, why their feathers were still mostly plain, and why Pre-K students must keep their fingers outside the enclosure at risk of peacocks pecking at little hands. Dr. Reynolds talked to them about how these birds remind us that heaven is real. Just as our lives can be ugly like young peacocks’ feathers, eventually we will turn more and more beautiful as Jesus transforms us into all He has created us to be. He noted that observing the peacocks points us to the transformative power of Christ in our daily lives. This is Paradise on earth.
Several weeks later, my heart sank. I learned that our peacocks had met an untimely end at the hand of unwelcome predator animals over the weekend. This was early on a Monday, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and I was tasked with explaining this disappointing news to thirteen bright and shiny, soon-to-be-sad, faces.
I prayed one of those quick, desperate prayers: “Lord, help me speak this in a way they can understand and doesn’t upset them terribly.”
As we sat together on our Circle Time rug, we sang and thanked God for our day and went over our calendar. I went for it. “Hey guys, I need to tell you a sad thing. We can’t visit the peacocks anymore because they died.” All thirteen of my three-year-olds were quiet as they processed this news. Then little Zoey piped up, “Mrs. Palandro, do we still have Goats and Sheep and Chickens to visit?” I nodded affirmation. No one cried.
Then our logical Levi offered, “I think they are at the dentist. I think that’s where they went.” They all considered this, and still no one cried.
Suddenly our precocious Ben interjected, “No way! Everyone knows peacocks don’t go to the dentist! They are definitely at the hospital.”
I stifled my laughter and didn’t interject anything else.
And that was it! Our class moved on to our next Recitation Verse. Our Daily Rhythms stayed intact on that unexpected Monday. It was another Paradise in PreK-3.
As we now take our weekly treks to visit the wonderful goats or sheep or chickens, I’ll never forget the original Saint Constantine Peacocks. Those birds taught me that tiny children are resilient; that God answers Pre-K teachers’ prayers, that we receive glimpses of heaven on earth in this beauty. And that as disappointing as life can be some mornings, with Jesus helping and transforming us, the promise of Paradise is real and sure.
Praise God for Pre-K, Peacocks, and Paradise.