The Steeple and The Schoolhouse
By Doug Jenkins
Once upon a time, a town
Not so far from mine,
Had a steeple and a schoolhouse,
Which stood there side-by-side.
The schoolhouse, now, was newly built,
Its brick was red and clean;
The steeple, though, was old and worn
Its best years long unseen.
Each weekday children came to school
Their young minds to impress.
The steeple, though, on Sundays, would
Find few to seek its rest.
But Saturdays, throughout the year
Were largely undefined,
So the schoolhouse and the steeple
Would chat to pass the time.
"I've been here for 60 years,"
The steeple said one day
"I was nice and clean like you
Not this tattered gray."
"I used to be filled every week
When Sunday rolled around;
From north and south, west and east
From all throughout the town."
"But now I rarely see a throng
Save maybe twice a year-
Yet even then its protocol
There is no joy or cheer."
"But you my friend, your clean red brick
Can really pack them in:
Pray tell, how do you do it;
Do you tell them of their sin?"
The schoolhouse chuckled with a grin
The question was absurd:
"Do I tell them of their sin?
No--that they've never heard."
"Then do you speak of Noah's flood?"
The steeple asked the school
"Or teach them of morality,
Or quote the golden rule?"
At this, the schoolhouse laughed again,
"No--these I've never taught
I have no need of foolish myths
Like Noah and his ark."
"I teach them things of science
Of language and of math;
They need to have my knowledge
To plan their future's path."
"I need not teach them morals;
There is no right or wrong--
I teach them, each and every one
To sing out their own song."
"Your stories are for children,
Infants in their youth;
However, I'll soon get them
And teach them all the truth."
"There is no need to speak of God
Within these hall so fair.
And think of all the time that's saved
By pausing not for prayer."
The steeple, silent, listened
to his neighbor syllogize,
And as you would imagine,
Tears welled up in his eyes.
But as the tears dripped down, he saw
A boy jump from a van;
He ran up to the schoolhouse,
With spray paint in his hand.
He sprayed some figures on the brick
And wrote some curses too;
He colored them in green and black
And finished it with blue.
The van then squealed its tires,
Leaving black marks in its wake.
The steeple saw the schoolhouse
With tears now on its face
"Why would someone do this?"
The schoolhouse cried with grief,
"They've robbed me of my beauty
They're no better than a thief."
Then steeple asked the schoolhouse,
"They are just thieves you say?
I thought you teach there is no wrong--
Then how'd they get this way?"
The schoolhouse wiped away its tears
"They probably are poor--
Or don't have both their parents,
Or maybe they're just bored."
The steeple sadly shook his head,
"That boy is James Lee Benz.
His father is our mayor;
Our town's leading citizen."
"His mother runs a shelter house
For the homeless on the street.
His brother is an Eagle Scout
(He's one that you should meet)."
"There is no problem culturally,
His environment is good;
So tell me now, dear schoolhouse, why,
He's not acting as he should?"
The schoolhouse sat and pondered
On the steeples queried shard
(There has to be an answer;
This should not be that hard.)
"I know, it is psychology!"
The schoolhouse proudly said.
"There is something wrong with him--
Yes, something in his head."
"If he would go to counseling
Then there would be no doubt--
He would get the help he needs
To work his problems out."
The steeple sighing deeply,
Was holding back a tear.
"Alas, he's been in counseling
For now his fifth straight year."
The schoolhouse, stunned, was quiet;
He knew not what to say.
He had no explanation
For what happened there that day.
"So, dear steeple, tell me,"
The schoolhouse said, forlorn,
"Just why this boy is acting out
In such a violent storm."
"You're partly right," the steeple said,
"His problem lies within;
But it's a problem of the heart
Not in the cranium."
"See, long ago his father chose
To not come here each week--
But hatched a plan to build you;
Life's answers there to seek."
It's not that I'm against you--
We really can be friends.
But you can only fill the mind--
I cleanse the soul from sin."
"The issue's not addition
To the mind of knowledge grand,
It's subtraction of submission to
The rule of Satan's hand."
"And so, my friend, until you come
To see this as the truth,
The mind will never understand
The spirit so uncouth."
The setting sun drew to an end
The conversation there,
And steeple had its faithful few
On Sunday kneel in prayer.
On Monday morn', the schoolhouse
Welcomed in its students bright;
Though they noted the graffiti
That its red brick bore with fright
All through the week, the schoolhouse thought
"Did steeple have it right?"
And could not wait for weekend's dawn
His honor to requite.
D. Allen Jenkins, from Columbus, Ohio is a recorded (ordained) Quaker pastor. Afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis since 1998, he rediscovered his love of writing as a means to share his fervent faith. He is the author of The Making of Tibias Ivory: Freedom's Quest. You can write to Doug care of the Letters page of this magazine.