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.