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Heart Matters: Everything But the Cape

I heard laughter and hoots outside, and my first thought was, Oh no, what now?

It was hot; I admit I was exhausted. I was in the church kitchen preparing snacks. Our VBS was in high gear. After weeks of labor-intensive preparation, the decorations were in place, loads of supplies and snacks were accounted for, and volunteers were all busy leading kids through the program. We were well underway…though we'd had our share of bumps -- behind-the-scenes power struggles over how snacks should be served, a few minor tiffs about who was in charge of what, and several discipline issues with kids.

That's why the upsurge in laughter made me nervous. I couldn't see through the kitchen window, so I headed for the door, bracing myself.

What I found wasn't kids misbehaving; the culprit was my games leader, Jean. I should've guessed. Jean was showing off, turning cartwheels out in the grass -- and the kids were loudly rooting her on.

Did I mention that Jean is 79?

I was dismayed. And a little envious.

After her cartwheel-turning display, I broke down and asked Jean where she found the energy and spunk. I was truly curious. I mean, VBS was exhausting for most of us. I was tired (and maybe a little cranky). So were many others. And then there was Jean, demonstrating cartwheels for the kids.

Of course people wonder how a 79-year-old can lead 3- through 12-year-olds in games for a solid week of VBS. (They wonder how a 24-year-old can do it.) But Jean is an exceptional woman who can do just that -- and do it better than most people half her age. Her looks are misleading: She's a petite grandma with twinkling blue eyes that hover behind oversized glasses. She sits demurely in her pew most Sunday mornings, quietly worshipping with the rest of us. But like most superheroes who lead double lives, Jean's an undercover dynamo.

Her answer was simple enough: "I'm a firm believer in staying active and keeping the blood flowing."

Jean isn't the typical 79-year-old. She's taught aerobics for 17 years. Three days a week, she teaches aerobics at the high school and again later in the day at a senior center. Thursdays she does line dancing. She fills the rest of her calendar by tending her large yard and garden, reading health magazines, and walking her pet schnauzer.

Jean's a bundle of enthusiasm and boundless energy, a superhuman example of passing on faith and fun to younger generations while inspiring her own demographic. When I asked what motivated her -- aside from her desire to minister to children -- she was blunt: "The influence of young people is important," she said, "because it keeps me doing things that I might not otherwise." She knew her antics at VBS were more than just fun and games, too; she hoped her example of service (with lots of smiles) might help "get some seniors out from in front of the TV and get moving."

Under that hot summer sun, though, I admit I could certainly feel my own weariness. I confessed as much to Jean, and asked for words of wisdom. As she spoke, I could almost see her swooping her superhero cape over her shoulder: "Drink plenty of water," she advised, "and avoid getting overheated."

Enough said.

Carolyn Brown is a volunteer VBS coordinator and serves on the governing board for her church in Bayfield, Colorado.

What's on Your Heart? Send your 500-word story to "Heart Matters," Children's Ministry Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481. If we publish your article, we'll pay you $125.

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