George, the Lenten Nark

It is the kind of hot Georgia afternoon that makes me wish I were still a Midwesterner.  I have two hours of seventh grade religion to look forward to, and an extra dollar in my pocket, so I swing by the vending machine on the way to afternoon classes.

As the Diet Coke rumbles from the machine I convince myself I am not really using Diet Coke to cope with 12-year-olds.

The bell rings, we pray, and 18 seventh graders pull out their notebooks.

“So yesterday we began learning about confirmation,” is my compelling opening sentence.  I pause, drained by the brilliant opener, and take a swig of Diet Coke.  A big ‘ol, bottle-crunching, cheek-busting swig.

“Hey,” George pipes up from the front row.  “I thought you gave up Diet Coke for Lent.”

So caught.  So dead.

I double over in laughter, caused by some combination of abject embarrassment and the hilarity of George’s quizzical expression. I hold the soda in my mouth, desperately trying not to spit it out.  I turn and put my face in the corner in a violent attempt to compose myself.

At this point, the whole class is giggling.  “What happened?  What did he say?” one girl whispers.

I swallow the illicit soda and face the class.  “George, you’re right.”  I toss the bottle, still a third full, in the trash.  “You got me.  I gave up on my Lenten promise yesterday.  But because you reminded me, I’ll stick to it for the rest of Lent.”

I really want a Diet Coke.  But George’s innocent, raised eyebrows keep me at bay. I am thankful that his young eyes held me accountable.  I wonder if the stodgier apostles ever felt this way about the Beloved Disciple.

And yes, I thought about retrieving the Diet Coke bottle from the trash when George’s class left.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t.

Jane Sloan

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B. Jane Sloan is a writer and high school theology teacher from Atlanta, GA. In addition to blogging for Catholic Exchange, she has been published in Our Sunday Visitor, Notre Dame Magazine and the literary journal Omnibus. Jane graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 with a B.A. in theology and philosophy. In 2009, she graduated with an M. Ed. from Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education. In 2009 Jane made a 500-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. She spent summer 2010 as an intern planting vegetables and baking bread at the Abbey of Regina Laudis OSB in Bethlehem, CT. In 2011 she was present among the millions at the beatification of Blessed John Paul II. She is currently working toward her M.A. in Theology. Follow her on Twitter @CE_SundayBrunch. Follow her other blog on all-natural eating at www.thesavagepalate.blogspot.com

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