I was in Wal-Mart the other day and in absolute heaven.
A contradiction in terms you say?
It would be, in any other month but August.
There were three full aisles with every kind of school supply possible. And without fail, it gets my heart racing.
Once upon a time, there was no such thing a school supply list sent home over the summer. Parents took their children to places like Woolworths or Two Guys, to buy the basics; pencils (Dixon or Ticonderoga #2, and the kind you actually have to sharpen), a box of crayons (who didn’t covet that oversized Crayola box with 64 shades and a sharpener in the back?) and maybe a three ring binder.
If you were lucky, you were also allowed to purchase a large, pink eraser, zippered pencil case or a new metal lunch box with a nondescript thermos inside. That is, if you ate in school and didn’t walk home for lunch. These supplies were only purchased if your old ones needed replacing. Believe it or not, items were reused year after year.
There was no such thing as a trapper keeper or backpack. You somehow managed to keep your papers together and your books in a neat stack to make them easier to carry. This was a struggle if your stack was particularly heavy or your walk, long.
There were no gluesticks. We used Elmer’s glue as an adhesive, and spread it on the palm of our hand while the teacher wasn’t looking. We then waved it frantically under our desk to dry, and then savored the sensation as we slowly peeled the dried glue off. Now there are glue sticks in every classroom and backpack. Today’s students don’t know what they’re missing.
Colored pencils were for artists, and markers were not washable, and so only used sparingly and under direct supervision. If you got any on your clothes, you had some explaining to do. Some of my friends don’t remember using markers at all. Ever.
There weren’t any highlighters or Post-Its to mark pages, and you certainly weren’t allowed to dog-ear corners. I remember marking passages by tearing pieces of paper into small strips and securing them between pages by pushing them close to the binding.
Dry erase boards and the accompanying Expo markers would have seemed magical to us! Instead, we coveted the contraption that held five pieces of chalk at a time and was drawn horizontally across the chalkboard to create lines the teacher would write on. All hands would go up when the teacher asked for a volunteer to do the honor and it was a privilege to be chosen. Amazingly, I found one on Amazon in case you’re too young and have no idea what I’m talking about.
And let’s not forget the erasers. Clapping them together created clouds of chalk dust that would be unfathomable today given the number of children with asthma.
Not only were school supply lists nonexistent, we never had to hand the teacher a box of tissues or hand sanitizer on the first day. Hand sanitizer? We used a bar of soap or the honey colored liquid soap that came out of every bathroom dispenser in the world.
I always loved school and maybe I’m just a nerd, but I never lost the love of buying school supplies. As I raised my daughter, we delighted in the August ritual. We would hit at least two stores to scout out the options. The longer the list, the happier I was.
And the choices grew exponentially! Paper clips? How about those cute ones that are zebra striped? Push pins now come in shapes of daisies and elephants. Need stapler refills? Even they are now available in a tantalizing array of colors.
Nowadays you can even go with a theme and buy coordinating notebooks, pencils, folders, planners, and desk accessories. How fun is that?
Even through her college years, I happily accompanied my daughter and suggested we buy supplies she probably never used. We even bought a pack of multicolored fine line markers, just in case she wanted to color-code her to-do lists. My daughter didn’t make to-do lists at the time, but I’d hoped having the markers would goose her to start. It didn’t. But I enjoyed buying the markers.
So it was no surprise when she was moving out and we came across a bag from Staples with enough unopened supplies to equip an impoverished middle school. I used what I could, and gave away the rest, just so I’d have an excuse to shop again the following year.
There’s something about new supplies that suggests a fresh start. A new beginning. Most people get that sense on January first. For me, it’s the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. After eighteen years of schooling, followed by thirty years working in a school, my “new” year is different than most and firmly entrenched.
And who doesn’t like a new beginning? When anything is possible. When there is promise and hope of change, accomplishment, and goals met.
In some ways, every morning is a new beginning. A new day means new opportunities to make choices that please Him. In the world of a believer, God’s love and grace are ever present. They are always available, as generous gifts, and in never-ending supply. In the realm of our Lord’s love, there is no beginning and no end. Whatever the calendar says doesn’t matter.
I still buy school supplies every August. I’ve scaled back considerably, but still get excited at the prospect of a new notebook, pads for lists, pencils, pens, and Post-Its, and relish uninterrupted time in the aisles contemplating all the choices and making my selections.
I’ve already seen what Wal-Mart has to offer. Next stop, Staples.
This year I’m considering a polka-dot theme.
Scripture verse for reflection:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.