Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lesson was most valuable find at first-grade Easter egg hunt

Gail Diederich (then Gail Shepherd), right, and her sister Ann pose in their Easter dresses.

Courtesy of Gail Diederich

Gail Diederich (then Gail Shepherd), right, and her sister Ann pose in their Easter dresses.

As children everywhere go on the hunt today for pastel-colored treats, I'm reminded of my first-grade Easter egg hunt, where I gained something much more valuable than first prize.

Schools back in 1956, particularly those in rural areas like my home in Macon County, N.C., operated under different rules than now. Teachers and parents felt completely comfortable loading up kids in cars and trucks — no seatbelts in those days, either — and taking them on a learning experience. That's how we all got to the big field adjoining my classmate Mike's house.

It was the last day of school before Easter and we were instructed to bring hardboiled, dyed Easter eggs to school. Colorful plastic eggs were yet to be, and since most of us were from farm families, real eggs were plentiful anyway. We carried our handful of eggs carefully — for most of us, that meant on a school bus — and gave them to Mrs. Arnold, our teacher, and she gave them to Mike's mom, "Miss Betty." Off she went carrying a basket filled with our eggs and before we arrived that afternoon "Miss Betty" had hidden those eggs in the big field.

All 20-some first-graders had baskets in hand, ready for the fun. Mrs. Arnold lined us up and gave general directions for hunting eggs. The child who found the most would earn a prize. We all raced into the big field, except for Bertie, a little girl who arrived mid-year and was prone to frequent outbursts with loud crying. Today was no different.

As I look back, having spent more than 30 years as an elementary teacher myself, I wonder if Bertie may have had emotional difficulties that would be identified and addressed in schools today. Or maybe she was just frustrated with new experiences, on top of being new to a class of kids where many of us had known each other since birth and felt almost like family. Bertie was the youngest of three children in her family, with two brothers already grades ahead, so she may have been the center of attention in her family and not able to handle being outside the spotlight.

Regardless, Bertie seemed heartbroken, standing at one side of the field, sobbing, empty Easter basket in hand. I found a few eggs but, with tenderness toward another's sadness or plain curiosity, I edged my way back, with another little friend, to where Mrs. Arnold stood with Bertie, patiently explaining the activity. Mrs. Arnold looked at me and my friend and gently suggested that perhaps if we each put an egg in Bertie's basket she would feel better. Right away, I took two of my eggs and put them in her basket. I recall Bertie staring down at them, then looking at me and a smile spread across her tear-streaked face. I glanced in my basket and knew I would never get that first prize but, even at 7 years old, helping Bertie felt much better than winning.

Easter is a special time of year when we recall the significance of giving and the great sacrifices others have made for us. With the fresh burst of spring, it's a time when we can renew our own plans to be better and to work harder to do what is right and do what will bring positive changes in others' lives.

The years have rolled by, but the lesson I learned with Bertie has stayed strong. Often when I've had reason to question something I'm about to do, I think of how the decision I make will affect or influence others. Often Bertie comes to mind. There are times when I've missed the mark and I've made many mistakes, but I'm thankful for those early experiences that have provided a foundation upon which I can attempt to make good decisions, even if it means not winning first prize.

Lesson was most valuable find at first-grade Easter egg hunt 03/30/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 11:50am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote


    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to


    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter


    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.