Chuck Terrill: Parents’ Day poem a prize

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

As a child, I had a low sense of self-esteem.

Mine was a dysfunctional family, and I couldn’t quite fit into 1960s society. Low self-esteem, a melancholy personality and complacency were my recipe for failure. I didn’t know it, but I was looking for an identity.


In the second grade, my class was assigned to write an original poem. We had about six weeks to do it. Weekly, the students would turn their poems in, the teacher would write helpful comments on the page, and they would edit it for another week.

I never turned in a poem. We were supposed to read our poems, aloud, at the annual Parent’s Day Assembly. On the day of the program, I still hadn’t turned in a poem to be judged by my teacher. Mrs. Box reminded me that the assembly was at 6:30 p.m., and that I had better come with poem in hand.

When I went home that afternoon, my mom was waiting for me. My teacher had telephoned to let her know of my errant behavior. My mom said, “You sit down at that table and you had better have a poem written by the time we need to leave at 6!”

I hadn’t been able to come up with a poem in six weeks, now I had to write one by 6 p.m.! With about 15 minutes to go, I scribbled my poem down, folded the page, and stuck it in my pant’s pocket. Mom wanted to read it. I argued with her until we were about late, and we jumped in the car and went.

At school, I avoided Mrs. Box. I hovered around at the fringe of the students until it was time to take our seats. During the program, our names were called in alphabetical order. Each student would take their stand behind the microphone, and read their poems. Since my last name started with “T,” each second was grueling. “Chuck Terrill,” the emcee eventually announced.

I shuffled to center stage. I was wearing blue jeans with iron-on knee patches that were curling at the corners. I had on a brown and tan flannel shirt. I was sweating profusely. I reached into my pocket, fumbled around, and with great effort, finally pulled out my paper, unfolded my poem, and began to read:

“There was a little Indian,

“His name was Ump.

“He shot a crooked arrow,

“And it landed in his rump!”

I looked down at my shoes so I wouldn’t have to look at my mom or my teacher, but the crowd went wild! They were laughing, and clapping! They were back slapping and elbowing each other. I was absolutely amazed! I don’t know why, but I made a little bow, and walked off the stage a brand new man!

We listened to Regina Varbel’s poem, and Greg Waggoner’s, and then the Parents’ Day Assembly was over.

People were shaking my hand and laughing with me. My mom and Mrs. Box were receiving accolades of praise. There was no way I was going to be reprimanded after that performance! But, for some reason, I did receive a “D+” from Mrs. Box.

Like I said, I was searching for an identity. My second-grade teacher may be the reason that I am a writer, today.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 471-847-2460.