When I was 10, I hated—really hated—Sunday school. We had to recite creeds, prayers and sing many hymns to an old-tinny piano played by an angry woman who would stare at the kids who didn’t sing. And she kept staring until they did sing.
One Sunday morning, I noticed that Timmy Reinhart, the assistant pastor’s nearly deaf son was in the same pew as me. He wasn’t singing. Makes sense. He wouldn’t know what page, song or verse was being sung in the hymnal. Basically, all of the kids, myself included, ignored Timmy because he simply couldn’t hear. We recognized his disability, but none of us ever tried to get past it. He was different, therefore he was an outcast. No one played with him on the playground. No one ever chased him, threw a ball to him or tried to include him in our games. Like I said, he was different. He had large-plastic light-brown hearing aids stuck in each ear connected to twin wires that disappeared inside his suit coat.
That Sunday morning, for no particular reason, I felt sorry for Timmy. I could see his loneliness. It was all around him. He was surrounded by kids his own age, yet no one could talk to him. Everyone else was standing and singing, but Timmy just went through the motions; sit, stand, sit, and bow your head. I moved down the pew and stood next to Timmy. When it was time to sing again, I moved closer, opened the hymnal and pointed to the words we were singing. His eyes lit up. He smiled. He followed my moving finger as I pointed to the words—and then he sang. Oh sweet Jesus, did he ever sing. Loud. Real loud. Ever listen to a deaf person try to talk? Well, multiply that by ten. And off key, too. The song he sang was nowhere close to the song the rest of us were trying to sing. Kids laughed. Some of the volunteer mothers gave us disapproving looks. The pianist glared. It was beautiful.
After the Sunday school service, Timmy’s father, the assistant pastor, approached me. “Oh oh, I’m screwed,” I thought. I was sure I was in trouble for causing a scene. The pianist was still glaring at me. I braced for the worst. However, quite the opposite happened, he thanked me profusely and shook my hand until it hurt. I think he was close to crying. It occurred to me that not only wasn’t I in trouble, I now had support from the assistant pastor—the second-in-command of the whole church. I was a made man. Ha! How cool.
The next week, I coached Timmy again. Again it was chaos. Very loud and way off key. Quite by accident, Timmy started singing the third verse while the rest of us were singing the second verse. Again, more glares from the volunteer mothers. I had an epiphany. If Timmy had no idea he was singing the wrong verse, he would have no idea he was singing the wrong song. And I was right. When we stood to sing again, I pointed to the verse on the opposite page. The wrong song. The wrong words. Totally fucked up. I loved it. The kids loved it. Much laughter. More frowns from the mothers. Ha ha. Fuck’em. I was ruining their worship service and there wasn’t a damn thing they could do about it. I was practically protected by the Lord God on high—the assistant pastor. I actually enjoyed Sunday school service for the rest of the summer as Timmy and I continued to terrorize the Sunday school service.
All good things come to an end. After Labor Day weekend, Timmy went back to a school for deaf children and I went back to hating Sunday school…but for a couple of weeks that summer, it was perfect.