The Woman With Bows In Her Hair

Pink bow

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.

I was one of a legion of children who was shepherded through third and fourth grade Sunday School by Maybritt Muller.  In my day she didn’t just teach, she ran the whole department for those grades, which comprised a number of classes. Her passing on July 13, 2013 has caused me to reflect, and I post this as a tribute to her. 

I don’t remember any specific class, or any direct lesson.  I remember that she smiled.  Always.  I don’t ever remember even a neutral look on Maybritt’s face.  She was happy and excited to be wherever she was, all the time.  Or at least that’s what she conveyed to others.

Of course I remember the little girl bows and clothes that she wore—always.  I never saw her in anything but a dress and if she was ever without that bow, I never saw it.  It was charming.  And yes, as the years grew on it was odd.  But it was Maybritt, and probably the world would have stopped spinning if she changed.

The one specific thing I remember about my time in her department, however, tells me all I need to know about the atmosphere in those classes and the unspoken lessons I carry with me still.

I don’t know if it happened more than once, but one of the years I was in those grades—somewhere in the mid 1960’s—Maybritt created a float for a local parade.  I can’t even tell you what the parade was for, but I was asked to be on the float.  I was wildly excited to be on a float in a parade, and I still feel the sting of disappointment when I remember that I got the flu and wasn’t able to do it.  The float sailed without me.

Now if you imagine a parade float from a Baptist Sunday School class of third and fourth graders, led by a small, middle-aged woman with bows in her hair, what would you picture?  Would it surprise you to know that I was supposed to be on that float as a Muslim girl in a burqa?  It was a float that taught the message of the song we always sang at our Sunday School opening:  “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…”  Other children on the float represented other cultures, races, and religions.

I thought absolutely nothing of it at the time.  I don’t remember thinking it was edgy or different or that we should only have a float that promoted Jesus.  But today I am Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bible Society.  When Florida pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn Qur’ans back in 2011, we responded by giving away Qur’ans to Muslims in need, receiving international praise for our effort.  The US government has reached out to us to help build bridges between Christians and Muslims in places like Afghanistan.

Maybe it seems like a stretch to you, but I think that the tear-stained notes of thanks we received from Muslims for our action, really should have gone to the woman who never thought twice about putting a young, Baptist girl in a burqa on a float in North Scituate, Rhode Island.  Maybritt planted the seed of love for all the children of the world in my heart.  Maybritt has now joined her Lord, but her spirit lives on in me and in countless others who, in a small village in the smallest state in the Union, came to know that the world was bigger than ourselves.  And that God loved us all.


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