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tasting the difference

BY CORNELIUS "CJ" JACKSON

I do not profess to be a master chef. In fact, I have little cooking experience to brag about. (Well, I can whip up a mouthwatering pot of cheese grits.) Nevertheless, even with my subpar culinary skills, I can more often than not detect the lack of certain ingredients in a dish—particularly those additives that I have become accustomed to appreciating in that meal.

In the same way, some of my "babies" in the After School Program at CGM have recently been making me aware of some missing elements in what I have been dishing out to them.

A little over a week ago, one of my eight-year-old students asked me why she never saw me at her school. Then later that week, a group of young boys questioned my perpetual absence during their lunch periods in the school cafeteria. And just yesterday, two ten-year-old girls were earnestly committed to practicing a dance routine when I walked by. As I passed them, one called out, “Pastor, are you gonna come to our performance when we do our dance routine?”

I slowed my pace, but I kept with my purposeful stride that suggested that I was busy and in route to something important.

I wasn’t!

I didn’t want to make an impromptu promise. But I felt their eyes affixed on the back of my frame—cajoling me like a super magnet to turn and face them; to answer them.

“Pastor!” the other girl cried out.

I turned and quickly replied, “Let me know the day and time, and I will see!”

In that moment, the requests, invitations, and inquiries of the past couple of weeks began to register. You see, one of our staff members who used to diligently go into the schools and frequent our students’ extracurricular performances resigned from CGM to return to graduate school. In the weeks since she’s been gone, our babies’ palates have been sensitized.

They were used to a personal presence - an encouragement - a familiar ingredient that they presently sense is lacking. And I now know that if I relegate my responsibilities to my CGM babies to mere on-campus labors, then they will complain as if their pancakes are devoid of syrup; that their macaroni has no cheese; that their cake is missing the icing.

I have taste-tested my dish and I believe I can do better.

Pray that my scheduling can accommodate a lunch visit, a spur-of-the-moment classroom stopover, or an evening performance. And even consider getting involved — by becoming a volunteer!

Who knows, you might prove to be that missing ingredient for some of our CGM students.