Risking rejection in the first grade classroom

I had a happy childhood where I felt loved and accepted but sometimes I still worry about what others think of me. I long to retire that battle but it lingers. So when I agreed to be a lunch buddy for a first grader at a school where many underprivileged kids attend I started wondering if I’d done the right thing.

What if she didn’t like me? Didn’t want me to be her “lunch-buddy” after meeting me and spending a lunch together. How embarrassing it would be for the school officials to inform me that there just wasn’t a “connection”. But I really felt that this was what God wanted me to do so I showed up that first Thursday for lunch.

I met my girl – my “lunch buddy”.  A first grader just like my daughter but with dark skin. She is precious and all things adorable. I’m still getting to know her. At our second lunch I knew there were some issues at home. Hard stuff going on there. Possibly the reason I was assigned to be her lunch buddy.

The third week we met all her classmates tricked me into peeling their oranges while the teacher was out of the room. The teacher came in and saw the long line of kids waiting for me to peel their orange. I was feeling very nice and helpful and sort of proud of my humanitarian efforts toward the long line of giggling first graders. In the most loving yet direct way the teacher told those kids with her hand on hip and her neck doing a hula hoop move, “Ex-cuh-use me?! Please do not take advantage of the kindness of a stranger. You peel your oranges by yourself every other day do not ask her to do it for you now.” It was then I realized I had been taken by an entire class of first graders. I did a scared laugh and looked at my girl and said, “Oops, sorry, I just got ya’ll in trooooouble.” She laughed and said, “Yeah, we know how to peel oranges.” Oh my word, I just got told!

We met for our fourth time last week and I noticed my girl was dressed in the same boots and pants as another little girl. She told me they were friends which led into a discussion on true friendship. I shared with her about my best friend and how we would show up in the same clothes also without even planning it and how we were besties for life but it wasn’t the clothes that made us best friends – it was kindness and being a good friend to one another. I turned to my girl and said, “Who is your best friend?” She pointed to me and gave me a huge hug and it melted my heart. It did. Right there in the school lunchroom my heart spilled like milk. And I realized that meeting this little girl and risking her not liking me or her class taking advantage of my orange peeling gullibility was worth it.

I’m linking up with my friend, Amy, about taking risks. I’m learning so much through this series. Like the fact that I don’t risk much anymore. And like the fact that faith and risk go hand in hand and if this is really true what does this say about my own personal faith. Ouch. So this weekly writing gig that I didn’t really take seriously at first is doing a number on me. It might be because Amy wrote all our names on a post it note and stuck them to her door and is praying for us every week. How cool is that? Very. Most of the people doing this writing deal are real writers and their “risk” is submitting a book to be edited or published. Really awesome stuff. And then there’s me – the girl risking to sit at a lunch table with first graders. Ha! Er uh, yes, indeed I have room for growth in this area of taking risk.


  1. Wow— as a teacher, who sees those broken, lost and hurting ones, THANK YOU SO MUCH for saying yes, and for taking that risk.

    I have chills. Happy, happy chills. God is so good!!!

  2. I really enjoy your writing and blog! Can’t believe I haven’t been here before :). As a FORMER teacher and now someone who goes into schools a lot for just the kids you speak of, this makes a difference being in these lives you have no idea. Plus, I can totally picture this scenario: being schooled by a first grader is something I have experienced many a times. Good for you for risking :).

    • I really admire teachers/former teachers (just saw your post today – praying with you about a job) and the sacrifice involved in teaching…..and the humility of being schooled by kids so much younger than us. Ha! Yeah, that’s always fun. I believe in mentoring and my dream is for this “lunch buddy” deal to end up in a full blown mentoring program in our county.

  3. Um, writing books is easy for me. This would be difficult! I am terrified by personal one-on-one rejection. So do not negate what you are doing! It’s big. Especially to her.

    • Thanks Jill – just went by your blog and totally freaked out about the spider story!!! WOW! That’s amazing that you conquered your fear – or at least told it a thing or two. That’s awesome. I’d try it but I’m afraid I’d be stuck with a $50 bill after stomping on it in a accidental fit of terror rage.

  4. That is so brave!! Way to listen to God leading your heart!

  5. Don’t underestimate the wonder of your risk! For you, putting yourself out there & volunteering like that is risking rejection! More people ought to volunteer and do what you are doing. I think it’s a great and positive thing! I agree that this #riskrejection series has been a great encouragement to step out in faith and take more risks!

    Christy @ A Heartening Life

    • Thanks Christy – I didn’t expect spiritual growth out of this series but I believe God is using it to open my spiritual eyes and heart to more of Him.

  6. No risk is too small friend…no risk is too small! So glad we could all brave whatever holds us back, here together friend!

    • Yeah, having the community of fellow risk takers no matter how big or small has really been an awesome thing.

  7. I will say first hand that your risk is the scariest!! I’ve seen the first grade lunch room, I’ve sat in the first grade lunch room, and I care not to go back to the first grade lunch room. That is a huge step out of comfort. Risk, girl, risk!!! You go.

    • Thanks for making me feel more normal in my fear of first graders. Ha! Who woulda thought right?

  8. Oh. I volunteered at my daughter’s school last year (1st grade) and let me tell you, it was very intimidating. 🙂 This is so sweet and I love it that you are risking to step out and be there for a small one. Cheering you on! x

    • I wonder if it’s because 1st graders seem more like 5th graders today and because they can navigate technology almost as well as adults – in some cases better!

  9. Thank you for eating lunch with her. For showing up. For being someone who is excited to see her. For being her new best friend. Isn’t it crazy how quickly they attach?

    Your risk is huge. It’s the “What do I possibly have to offer?” risk, and you know, that’s something we all battle (even when we think that is an old battle which has already been won).


    • and wisdom speaks again…….yes, the ‘old battle already been won’ trick. Great to put a name to it and be able to recognize it so we can fight against it.

  10. Well, you know, my risk was getting a pedicure, so I think you and I are seeing eye-to-eye on this risk thing. What you are doing is incredible, and clearly worth it. I can’t wait to see what unfolds next week!

  11. Incredibly sweet and encouraging! Way to risk your heart for these little ones… Jesus is pleased 🙂

  12. Bethany Stutsman says:

    I read your comment a while ago that you left on my last blog post from 100 years ago…I’m considering doing a come back post. Mostly for you, as I am quite certain I have lost any sort of “following” I may have once had haha….it’s been forever! Thanks for knockin’ on my door 🙂

  13. Your risk is very real and very important. 🙂 I bet your lunch buddy is super happy that you took this risk to be her friend.