Academy for G.O.D. connects Neighbors across Generations
A basic and steadfast value at the Academy for G.O.D. is respectfulness of parents and teachers. But the above verse goes beyond that. It talks about a regular and consistent respect and deference to the aged--and not just those you see in school or home environment. The Bible says that this kind of care for the elderly is an expectation upon all those who fear God, and our students are learning it from the very beginning.
When I drive to the grocery store now, my kindergartener tells me “That’s McKendree Village mom!” It’s one of the most exciting new landmarks that we pass. Because the Academy for G.O.D. campus is only a short drive from McKendree Village Assisted Living Center in Old Hickory, each class has been able to take field trips to spend time with the residents this year. This was birthed out of a desire to make “field trips” more than a fun break from the school schedule, but also an eye-opening experience for students to understand their world, including the variety of people in it. If we are teaching our students to be kind and ethical neighbors (the school’s mission), that needs to include learning how to properly respect, greet and care for the elderly in our vicinity. The results were just as the school had hoped: fantastic.
When my daughter traveled to McKendree with her class, her class had been prepared on how to show respect and care, encouraged to shake hands, ask questions, and listen to responses. Her teacher texted me after, “Charlee did so well asking them questions and listening, shaking their hands. One man, Milton, told her gesture would make his smile last the whole day.” But it made the students’ day as well. Chaperones were sharing that the kids said it was their favorite field trip yet!
Brandon Galford, Academy teacher and field trip facilitator, told me, “Our kids painted pictures for the residents and did various crafts. One of the women I spoke with doesn’t have any kids or grandkids. She said she looks forward to the “God school kids” who come out and bless them.” He continued, “Several of the women were seriously moved. One lady, Betty, told me she’s so thankful that our kids come out and get exposed to elderly people so that they can grow up to not fear getting old - so they can see it as a blessing. She said she prays this for the kids.”
When the high school students were asked about their favorite part of the visit, Gerron Norman immediately responded, “The joy that was on their faces as we sang with them.” From Amazing Grace to How Great Thou Art, the students sang songs the residents could sing alongside them. Teachers likewise enjoyed sitting in between the young and old generations and observing the experience. Academy teacher Ashley Moore reflected, “It was touching to me to see our students in full-fledged ministry mode. I saw them take intentional moments to introduce themselves to the residents and ask about their kids and grandkids. They never left a room without asking for ‘words of wisdom’ and offering to pray with each person they met. They were also given the opportunity to perform worship songs and some funny skits they’ve been working on in other creative arts classes. It was fun to see education and ministry collide.”
So often we drive right past our neighbors, old or young. We keep doors closed and don’t ask questions. But the Academy for G.O.D. is training kids in another way--one that explores their natural vicinity and asks how they could be good neighbors, showing love and respect and kindness, opening doors that previously were closed. I think that Milton is in good company when he notes this gesture of kindness makes a lasting impression.