Jesus and the Turnip Truck

Joseph Lightway, an energetic second year teacher, was constantly amazed at the incredible commitment to children the teachers in his school displayed day after day. Sure there were a handful of sour grapes on the faculty, but overall he felt he was blessed to be part of such a professional group of teachers. To him, they were simply remarkable! In fact, they were so wonderful and unselfish that he came up with a plan to do something very special for them. He spoke to his wife about his plan, and though she expressed doubts he could make it happen, she agreed if he could pull it off, it would be the most amazing gift ever presented to a group of teachers. That was all the encouragement he needed; that night Joseph sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a letter to Jesus inviting the greatest teacher of all to visit his school and speak to the teachers. The next morning, he carried the letter to the post office where a kind woman behind the counter took the letter as if a letter addressed to Jesus Christ was a routine occurrence.

The letter was mailed L.O.D. (Love on Delivery), and it was delivered promptly to #2 Heavenly Way by a white dove with a U.S. Mail insignia laced on the underside of each wing. Jesus was impressed and touched by Joseph’s sincerity, but he had one stipulation; he would make the journey to earth only if he could speak to all the teachers in the world. Even with that one rather overwhelming condition, Joseph was elated when Jesus’ secretary notified him that Jesus had accepted his invitation. He felt confident the news media would jump at the opportunity to be a part of such a historical event, and they would readily broadcast the event around the world thereby meeting the one condition set for the visit. But, the next day when he spoke to Jesus’ booking agent, Samuel, he became very discouraged to learn that Jesus preferred to be personally in the presence of all teachers when he spoke, so a broadcast was out of the question. The young teacher’s heart sank; it was not humanly possible to gather all the teachers in the world in one place. With his shoulders slumped under the weight of the enormity of Jesus’ request, he decided to seek advice from his pastor, Brother David “Nothing is too small or big for Jesus” Howard. When Brother Howard heard about Joseph’s dilemma, he began to laugh. “Joseph, Joseph,” he said, “do you honestly think a trivial problem such as finding a large enough venue for Jesus to speak is an obstacle he hasn’t thought about or can’t handle? If he can feed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and pieces of fish, he can certainly provide enough space to accommodate all the teachers in the world. So, quit worrying about Jesus’ job and do yours. Announce that Jesus will speak at your school and let Jesus take care of the rest.”

Taking Brother Howard’s advice to leave the logistics of the meeting to Jesus, Joseph went happily about his job of getting the teachers to the big event. He called a meeting of all the education leaders in the world to meet with Samuel and him in Dallas, Texas at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. On the day of the meeting, the stadium was packed with education leaders from around the world. Chocolate candies and letters of the alphabet cutout by first grade teachers from across the United States were spread out on each table. The Texas superintendent of education gave his ponderous opening remarks and then introduced Joseph and Samuel to the group. While Samuel thanked all in attendance for taking time from their busy schedules to meet with him, the education leaders continued to talk among themselves, text under the table, get up to take phone calls, and basically proved themselves to be rude and obnoxious. Samuel, however, did not let any of this bother him; he told them Jesus wanted to deliver a special message to all teachers around the world, and that the help of education leaders would be appreciated as well as expected. Of course, many of the leaders were immediately apprehensive of the religious implications and overtones of such a message, but after much discussion and a rapidly approaching lunch hour, all the leaders agreed to move forward with the plan. They immediately petitioned their governments for help. Public and military transportation directors were given orders to get the world’s teachers to Joseph’s school on time no matter the expense. As education leaders do, they scheduled a teacher professional day for the big occasion and sent emails and newsletters with their pictures and bios alongside a bio of the famous guest speaker.

On the morning of the big event, all the teachers from around the world gathered at Joseph’s school. Some were excited about the meeting, some were excited they had a day with no kids, some were non-committal – at least the sun was shining, and some moaned and groaned about having to attend a meeting when they had so much to do in their classrooms. Representatives from all the teacher unions were present complaining about not being consulted or invited to help plan the event. News media from around the world surrounded the area hoping to see Jesus make a spectacular entrance by fiery chariot or even better, carried on the wings of angels. Vendor carts rolled up and down the street and weaved their way through the school parking lots peddling balloons shaped like angels, Jesus, crosses and chariots. Crosses made from telephone poles towered above white tents of every size with fluttering Christian flags and banners waving in the gentle south Mississippi breeze. Each tent was filled to capacity with stacks of boxes from China and Korea containing souvenir Bibles, crucifixes, figurines of Jesus embracing a teacher, bottles of water guaranteed to turn to wine if the buyer was close enough for Jesus to touch the bottle, bottles of cheap wine with labels claiming it had been transformed from water to wine by the touch of Jesus, and discolored pieces of decaying wood sold as remnants of the actual cross. As a means to collect data for pandering future mailing lists to corporate buyers, small booths for people to sign up for Jesus newsletters and fan clubs were set up outside the door to each tent as well as strategically located near clusters of portable toilets. Behind the media and tents, National Guard troops pushed back thousands of curiosity seekers and protesters brandishing signs and banners touting the end of the world, Jesus as a fake, the end of Christianity, and blasting Jesus as a sellout for appearing to a select group and not the masses as a whole. Samuel had tried his best to get the word out that this was a courtesy visit by Jesus and not the long awaited SECOND COMING, but it had apparently done little good. Crowding the steps leading to where Jesus would deliver his message stood local, state, national, and world politicians jockeying for position to get a picture with Jesus that would guarantee their election and/or reelection for their lifetime. Agents of the United States Secret Service surrounded the President and yelled through mega horns at other security agencies from around the world also struggling to ensure the safety of their leaders. World leaders argued hotly as to who would be the first to shake Jesus’s hand as he mounted the steps. Overall, it was a glorious day to be human!

Jesus arrived in a yellow taxi. Samuel exited the taxi from the front passenger seat and opened the back door. The media pushed forward, cameras flashing and microphones extended over shoulders, under arms, between bodies and even squeezed between legs. A loud moan of disapproval spread over the crowd when a bent little man with a thin lived-in face dressed in a white seersucker suit with a white notebook stuck under his arm exited the rear cab door. He took a moment to brush rumpled creases from his trousers, looked rather contemptuously at the horde of media surrounding the taxi and then began writing in his notebook. He held the notebook high above his head with “THOU SHALL STAND BACK!” written in perfect block lettering across the page. The crowd did not move. With a slight frown, he pulled the notebook down and began to scribble on the pad once again, but this time he used two pages. When finished, he hoisted the notebook once more high above his head with “STAND BACK HEATHENS” printed across the page. No one moved. The frown became more intense as he flipped to the second page and shoved it at arm’s length above his head; “THIS MEANS YOU!” the page read. One young reporter on his first assignment stepped meekly back. The seersucker suit laid the notebook on top of the cab, reached inside the cab and pulled out a long rather worn looking shepherd’s crook. He turned back to the crowd and lifted the staff high above his head. “THOU SHALL STAND BACK!” he roared and slammed the end of the staff against the asphalt pavement. The shock wave blew aside the media and onlookers crowding the taxi forming a clear path from the taxi to the steps leading to the presentation stage. Stunned bodies lay in heaps to either side of the cleared walkway some painfully mouthing prayers of forgiveness while others groaned curses. The little man nodded his approval, folded the shepherd’s crook and put it in his coat pocket in case it was needed again. He turned to retrieve his notebook, but it was gone! Speaking in a tongue never heard before by human ears, he mumbled a few words angrily and then pushed his hand deep into his pants pocket and pulled out a small tin container with “Chill Pill” printed across the top. Opening the tin box, he took a rainbow colored pill and popped it into his mouth. Immediately, a warm smile spread across his thin face.

Jesus stepped from the taxi amid cameras now flashing from a respectful distance, the multitudes of voices calling his name rode as thunder across the parking lot, children burst from the crowd and swarmed around him. A few adults tried to follow behind the children, but the thin faced little man needed only to reach for the shepherd’s crook in his coat pocket to halt their advance. Hurriedly, the school band director ushered the marching band forward barking orders for the tubas and trombones to help make room for the band’s one hundred plus members. As the band serenaded Jesus’s walk with the director’s special arrangement of “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” performed in rounds, school choirs from around the world broke into Handel’s “Messiah”, Bach’s “Mass in B minor”, and Allegri’s “Miserere.” Although the resulting cacophony was exhausting to human ears, Jesus had no problem concentrating and isolating each relevant contribution. As he neared the steps to the platform the band and choirs gave way to acrobats and human pyramids as the school cheerleaders greeted Jesus with “J – E – S – U – S! J – E – S – U – S!” What does it spell?” “JESUS!” roared the football team. “What does it spell?” the cheerleaders squealed. “JESUS!” roared the baseball team. “Jesus, Jesus, We love Jesus,” clapped the cheerleaders. “Go, fight, win! Go, fight, win! Yay! Jesus!” At the foot of the steps, Jesus turned to face the band, choir, cheerleaders and the crowd. With a smile on his lips and a gleam in his eyes that twinkled brighter than any star, he raised his hands high above his head and said “Bless you my children.” Although his voice was as soft as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, the blessing was heard at the farthest corners and boundaries of the crowd. The crowd fell silent and dropped to their knees, hoping and praying the blessing was also intended for them and not only the children who had just performed. Jesus waved to the crowd as if to reassure them and then turned to the steps where the world’s dignitaries and politicians awaited him. The smile immediately left his lips and his eyes took on the hardness and color of coal as he mounted the first step and quickly climbed to the top avoiding eye contact and ignoring the hundreds of hands reaching for him including presidents, kings, and queens.

At the top of the platform, he stopped, and signaled for the teachers to be allowed to move forward. He welcomed each teacher with a handshake and hug if they preferred. They all knew who he was, and he knew who most of them were as well. After he had personally greeted each and every teacher, he made his way to the stage where a podium had been set up for his message. He looked approvingly over the crowd; children were seated first, teachers second, school support staff sat directly behind the teachers, curiosity seekers and the general public were allowed in next followed by the news media and then politicians and world leaders brought up the rear. As ordered, Samuel stood at the back doors to ensure they remained open so any last minute stragglers could be seated. Jesus did not believe in closed doors.

A dull buzz hung over the room. The teachers speculated to one another about the funding cuts, slashed programs, RIFT announcements, or verbal spanking they were most likely about to hear. However, Jesus mentioned none of that. He did not chastise them for not being perfect, nor did he blame them for the sins of society. He thanked the teachers for their service to the children of the world; he gave an inspirational talk that built up to his addressing teachers as his angels on earth.

Most of the teachers listened intently, others played Candy Crush on their phones, a few slept, several stepped outside to take important phone calls from their hairdressers, a handful gossiped throughout the talk, every three minutes or so a few sighed deeply and looked at their watches, and a few stared blankly into space. After his talk Jesus made his way to the floor to meet with the teachers. He spent time talking to each teacher, taking a picture, and kissing each teacher on the cheek. All in all it was a glorious morning to be a teacher!

By the time the teachers returned to their schools, the rumblings of discontent had begun. Long dark shadows dropped over the teacher lounges, hallways, and classrooms of each and every school. By the afternoon of the second day following the big visit, school administrators around the world were reporting low morale and disgruntled teachers. School principals began to panic, “What can we do?” they cried. They quickly implemented morale building programs, set up committees to study the morale problems, and brought in psychologists and private sector employee relationship experts. School districts spent millions to hire companies to interview teachers and conduct surveys. Around the world, billions of dollars were spent trying to discover a solution to the problem, but since no one had any idea as to the cause of the low morale, no solution could be found.

One day an old farmer from Luxachaney, Mississippi drove his turnip truck to the back door of the cafeteria at Joseph’s school to unload his turnips. As usual the cafeteria ladies greeted with smiles and the latest news and gossip. They told the him about the visit from Jesus and the ensuing clamor about low morale that had educators around the world baffled and in an uproar. “You are a wise man,” one of the ladies said. “What do you think?”

The old farmer stroked his chin, but before he had time to stroke out his usual wise council, Joseph moped into the cafeteria. “Joseph,” the cafeteria manager said, “don’t tell me you are down in the dumps also.

“Maybe, just a little,” Joseph said. “I just found out they have discovered the reason for the low morale.”

“Why that is great news,” said the cafeteria manager.

“Not really,” Joseph said. “After studying the interviews and surveys, the stat guys discovered 20 percent of the teachers felt everything was great and morale was fine. They also found 60% of the teachers really did not care about morale one way or the other as long as they were left alone. It seems, the problem is coming from 20% of the teachers who left the meeting feeling Jesus short changed them.”

“How could they feel short changed after all the wonderful things Jesus had to say about them?” asked the cafeteria manager.

“Oh, they liked what he had to say,” Joseph replied, “but apparently, they didn’t like what he did after the message.”

“Good grief,” said the cafeteria manager, “he shook every teacher’s hand, posed for a picture with every teacher, and he even kissed each teacher on the cheek! What more could they want?”

“Apparently,” Joseph said, “to be kissed on both cheeks.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” the farmer chuckled.

“Nope,” Joseph said shaking his head sadly, “20% of the teachers felt Jesus short changed them by not kissing them on both cheeks.”

“And, that is really what they are upset about?” asked the farmer.

Joseph didn’t really feel like smiling, but he did. “As unbelievable as it sounds, they are upset Jesus did not kiss them on both cheeks.”

The old farmer shook his head in disbelief, “Sounds like a bunch of turnips to me.”

“That’s much nicer than I would have put it,” said the cafeteria manager.

“Yep, sounds just like a truck load of turnips. 20% are delicious, 60% are not quite as delicious but not bitter either; mix them with the 20% delicious ones and they make a fine meal. But, that other 20% are bitter and rotten to the taste. They can spoil the whole truck load if you are not careful.”

“I think they did just that,” Joseph said and turned away, sorry for the mess he had caused by trying to do something nice. I won’t make that mistake twice he promised himself.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 3, 2015

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