“Class,” Mrs. Braxton began, “Its coloring time. Since it is sooo hot out I thought we should color something cooler. Brandon, would you help me pass out these pages?” A red-headed boy jumps up and enthusiastically “walks” to the front of the class. Sally is excited to get a penguin to color, some kids got polar bears, sea lions, or orcas but she liked penguins most of all.
While the children work on their pictures Mrs. Braxton wanders around the room that has been darkened to help keep it a bit cooler. A fan oscillates in the corner providing a little breeze. Earlier that morning she had opened the fire door to let in the cooler morning. “A purple polar bear, that’s quite imaginative Alex.”
“Mrs. Braxton, I’m hot,” a dark-haired girl complained.
“I know dear, we’ll have a cool treat in a few minutes,” the teacher comforted.
Sally was stuck on what color to make the penguin’s tie. She had colored the ice blue and the penguin black like she had seen in a TV show, but the tie baffled her. As she pondered her choices her eyes wandered to a dark corner where a box of leftover construction paper rested. Sally had noticed the box and the jumble of brightly colored paper a few days ago. This time there was something extra in the box that looked like the back of someone’s teddy bear. “Very nice Sally,” Mrs. Braxton encouraged.
“Mrs. Braxton, someone left their teddy bear behind,” Sally said.
“Oh? Where is it?” the teacher asks. Sally points to the box in the corner. Just then the teddy bear moves its head revealing its true nature as a raccoon. Mrs. Braxton and Sally both scream in surprise, they are soon joined by the rest of the class. Well, all but Asher, he’d seen raccoons at his grandpa’s farm and didn’t think it was a big deal. The raccoon, frightened by the noise, scurried around the room seeking a better place to hide. Mrs. Braxton quickly tries to regain control. “Line up at the door,” she yells. Most of the students quickly form a line. Asher is a bit disgusted with having to leave his picture, “its only a raccoon” he mutters. Sally’s screams turn to sobs. Mrs. Braxton takes her hand and pulls her along to the front of the line and into the hallway. “Matt, lead the class to the water fountains. Class, follow Matt and sit against the wall as we have practiced.”
Mrs. Braxton quickly slams the door shut after the last of the students file by. Kneeling down she says, “Sally, its okay now. Go join the rest of the class.”
Sally shakes her curls, “I’m afraid.” She whispers.
“I’m a little frightened too, do you want to stay with me?”
“Is everything Okay?” another teacher asks from the classroom across the hall.
“Can you call the office and have them send a custodian?” Mrs. Braxton asks.
It doesn’t take long until the news gets around, outside doors are closed, and the raccoon is shooed into the woods on the other side of the playground.
“Sally had a big day today,” Sally’s mom reported at the dinner table.
“Oh, What happened?” Dad asked.
“Sally, you tell him.”
“I saw a raccoon,” Sally excitedly reports.
“It was in the box in the corner. I was the first one to see it,”
“At school?” Dad asked.
Sally nods and loads up another spoon of peas.
“Mrs. Braxton called earlier to see if Sally was ok, it seems she was pretty shaken by the whole thing,” Sally’s mom added. “I wish they’d air condition that building then they wouldn’t have to leave the doors open.”
“Sally seems to have gotten over it already,” Dad said.
Sometime in the middle of the night Dad and Mom wake to Sally’s screams and rush to her room.
“Sally, what’s wrong?” Dad asks.
“What’s here?” Mom asks.
“The raccoon, it’s under my bed, I heard it.”
Dad sat on the bed and cradled Sally in his lap. “There’s no raccoon under your bed or even in the house. You must have had a bad dream.”
“But I heard it,” Sally insisted.
“Do you want me to look?”
Sally nodded. Dad signaled Mom to turn on the lights. After a brief examination under Sally’s bed he looked up and said, “nothings here Sally, no raccoons or anything else. I did find one of your slippers though.”
“But I’m scared”
“Okay, let’s turn out the light and tuck you in,” Dad said. After getting Sally settled he continued, “There are lots of scary things in the world, things even scarier than raccoons invading kindergarten. Even I get scared sometimes.”
“Yep, there is a psalm that I remember when I get scared. It goes something like this… ‘Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue me from every trap and protect me from deadly disease (and raccoons). He will cover me with his feathers. He will shelter me with his wings. His faithful promises are my armor and protection.’* Do you remember that show we watched about penguins? Remember how they protected their eggs and the baby penguins from the cold?”
Sally nods, “I was coloring a penguin when I saw the raccoon.”
“Well, God’s promise is that if we cling to Him he will protect us like those penguins do their young. Do you want me to pray for you?” Sally nods and snuggles deeper into the sheets.
After a prayer and a pat, Sally settles in for the night.
A few weeks later the school held an open house where parents can come in and see what their child has been up too. While Mrs. Braxton recounts the raccoon story to Mom, Sally takes Dad on a tour of their classroom. On one wall are various coloring pages, one of which is Sally’s penguin picture. Dad chuckles as he notices that Sally has given the Penguin a bright blue tie and added something else. Standing on the penguin’s feet like a baby penguin is a small stick drawing of a blond haired girl in a pink dress.
*(Psalm 91:1–4, NLT – paraphrased)