The Little Red Hen

My mother is a teacher.  She was, is and always will be a teacher. 

She was a teacher by profession. Before giving birth to five children, she taught high school English. When the twins, my younger brother and sister, entered kindergarten, she began teaching kindergarten at the First Methodist Church of Conyers, GA. She later moved to the public school system where she taught kindergarten and third grade until her retirement.

She is a teacher by vocation. It is a part of her very nature to teach. My earliest memories are of my mother reading to me and telling me stories. These stories formed me and taught me lessons that I have carried through my life. I now know that my mother taught not only to impart necessary information like how to count, say the alphabet, hold a pencil, add and subtract, read, use proper grammar, etc.; she imparted life lessons through stories that she told and revisited at formative times.

One of those stories was The Little Red Hen. In this story, the Little Red Hen finds some grain and asks the other barnyard animals to help her plant it. To her question, “Who will help me plant the seeds?” each in turn says, “Not I.”  Each of her subsequent questions is met with the same response. “Who will help me harvest the wheat? Who will help me grind the grain? Who will help me bake the bread?” “Not I.  Not I.  Not I.” But when she asks, “Who will help me eat the bread,” she is met with an enthusiastic chorus of “I will. I will. I will.”

My mother told, and often repeated, this story to my siblings and me during times when we all needed to pitch in and help. She knew that we would all want to enjoy the benefits of whatever task was at hand (like dinner, for instance!), and if we wanted to enjoy the final product, then we all needed to help make it happen. And there were plenty of tasks to go around no matter our age. As young children, to help prepare dinner, we didn’t have to know how to cook. One could fold the napkins, set the table, put the ice in the glasses, pour the tea. Mother showed us that there was something each of us could and should do.

As we grew older, my mother no longer had to read us the story or retell it when its lesson needed to be reinforced. She would simply end a request by saying, “Said the Little Red Hen.”

When I consider the life of a congregation, I often think of the Little Red Hen. It is tempting to want to benefit from all that happens in the life of the church without helping to plant the seeds, harvest the wheat, mill the grain and bake the bread, but it takes everyone doing what they can (no matter their age) to enjoy a strong and vibrant church.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the myriad of ministries that take place in the life of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. Our opening procession will include knitters, skaters, builders, learners, teachers, needlepointers, musicians, cooks, ushers, athletes, greeters, pray-ers, children, youth, young adults, older adults and everyone in between! As a congregation, we will also vote on whether or not we will enter into a capital campaign to raise funds to renovate and improve the buildings from which and in which we do ministry. There are many seeds to plant, wheat to harvest, grain to mill and bread to bake. “Who will help?” asks the Little Red Hen.

(If you have never heard the story of the Little Red Hen, you may read it here.)