If you want a dose of humility or need practice with your presentation skills, I have the audience for you: seven-year-old children, in the evening, preparing for First Communion.
My parish asked me to lead the preparation course this winter. I didn’t say no because, after all, how hard could it be?
I did manage to teach the kids a few things. Mostly, though, they taught me some hard lessons about public performance.
- If you live by the technology, you’ll die by the technology. One evening, I presented a Brother Francis video from Herald Entertainment on the topic of the Eucharist. Naturally, my DVD player acted up and, as I was fiddling with the system, one of the young lads called out “You’re wasting our time!” He was right. I had prepared and tested everything in the afternoon and again just before the presentation. Still it went wrong at the moment of truth.
- You can’t deliver the message if you don’t hold their interest. It was amazing to see children who didn’t know each other become fast friends as they tied and untied their shoes, kicked the kneelers, yawned in unison and turned their rosaries into lariats whenever the presentation dragged. (At least they weren’t stealing glances at their cell phones.)
- Calmness is the golden key. Picture getting 28 youngsters, each with a lit candle, to form a line for a solemn procession. Nothing could go wrong, could it? Do you see the children milling around, fascinated with fire, bumping into each other; harried volunteers getting them back into line and relighting the candles they had blown out; parents distracting their kids with baffling hand-signals? Yet there they go, down the aisle, decked out in their finest clothes and angelic smiles.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. The kids are the best teachers and there’s so much to learn.