School supplies metaphors for life

By Judy Brandon: CNJ Relgion Columnist

Well it’s official. School supplies are out at Wal-Mart and other stores and that means that the countdown back to school has begun! With the passing of July Fourth, it seems that summer vacation is on the downside. That could be depressing … but there are plenty of summer fun days left.

Ah, school, the days of school supplies. While cleaning out boxes the other day, I found some old school pictures, Bible school certificates, a red reader from first grade and my first-grade class picture with all of us standing on the steps of Meserve School in Kansas City, Kan. I even found an old faded school supply list from my third-grade year! After all these years, I don’t need those third-grade supplies. Yet that list symbolized some items that might be appropriate for adulthood in a hypothetical way.

That supply list included the following: a cigar box for supplies, a wooden ruler, glue, an art gum eraser, crayons and a box of Kleenex.

That list was for childhood and third grade. On the other hand, adults in this life oftentimes deal with challenging situations and the resulting emotions of life’s situations. A look at that old school supply list might bring some similarities for adult life on a more abstract level.

In elementary school, a cigar box was used to keep one’s school supplies and resources organized for easy accessibility. As adults, our resources are family, friends and community. There are larger resources at a greater level. These are defined for most of us in the parameters of faith, which houses the framework of the support for life.

Then there was the wooden ruler. In elementary school it was easy to draw straight lines with a ruler as a guide. Yet, sometime, somewhere along the way in life, we have to measure what we think and how we feel in regard to morals, values, attitudes and life in general. One can with a mental ruler evaluate, analyze, assess, consider and review what is heard, learned and experienced in adult life.

Don’t forget the art gum eraser! Adults probably don’t need an eraser every day but some of us may need mental erasers. I failed third grade. As an adult I have had to learn from many past failures. I have had to erase those failing events over the years from my mind and “press on” as the Apostle Paul wrote.

Then there were crayons. Nothing was as wonderful as the smell of a brand-new box of crayons for me! We may not need crayons in adulthood. If we just stop to notice, there are tremendous colors in this world that God has given us.

Finally, a Kleenex box was on the list. That was a necessity in third grade. As adults, we might still need access to those tissues. When loved ones have died, or life has changed, I have cried. Sometimes emotional hurts have been so deep that no tears came. Nonetheless, my heart sobbed. We adults may still need a box of Kleenex tissues from time to time.

Well I did fail third grade and I am here to tell it. But the wonderful thing is that in spite of my failures and disappointments since that third-grade school supply list, I made it to see my own children go to school and college.

Yes, that school supply list at Wal-Mart and other stores is still relevant — in more ways that one.

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: