How Sunday School Gave Me a Sense of Direction

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have spent my entire life trying to improve my sense of direction.

I still have my clueless moments, but for the most part, I know my north from my south.

And it’s all because of the 23rd Psalm.

I don’t remember exactly how old we were — probably 8 or 9 years old — when our Sunday School teacher challenged us to learn the 23rd Psalm.

Those who learned it would win a prize.

What kind of prize? Who cares. It didn’t matter. Prizes weren’t quite so plentiful back then as I recall.

I don’t remember much about the process of learning it, but I’m sure it was laborious and fraught with frustration on everyone’s part. It was quite an assignment.

I distinctly remember some of my early interpretations of the passage. I didn’t understand what having my head anointed with oil really meant. I envisioned a quart of Quaker State 30-weight dripping onto my shirt. Compound that with my cup running over, and all I could think about was how much trouble I would be in for making such a mess.

I finally grew into understanding it, and on a good day, I can still recite it perfectly.

My prize was a United States map puzzle.

It was gloriously colorful, about the size of a dish towel. Each state was a piece of the puzzle with the state name and the state capital, and a picture representing something about each state.

Tennessee’s little picture was a fiddle. Alabama’s was a cotton boll. Florida’s was a rocket. That’s all I remember.

I played with it tirelessly. I learned a lot about the geography of the United States because of it.

I also learned north, south, east and west.

I put it away for the last time decades ago. But I continue to think about it on a regular basis.

It is my mental compass.

Let’s say I ask for directions, and the person tells me my destination is to my east. All I have to do is close my eyes and pull up the mental image of that puzzle, envision Michigan or Montana, then hang a right and head toward North Carolina.

It hasn’t failed me yet.

I don’t rely on envisioning the map per se as much as I used to. But it’s one of those things burned in my mind that I cannot unsee, so to speak.

It’s kind of like how the smell of apple pie always makes one think of grandma’s house.

I wish more people would’ve had a United States map puzzle. I am continuously baffled by how people have no concept of directions. I see it all the time.

My office is on the southeast corner of Church and Third streets. For those of us lucky enough to have a United States map puzzle burned into our brain, all we have to do is hypothetically stand in the middle of the intersection facing north, hold our puzzle in front of us and head over our right shoulder toward Florida.

I can’t tell you how many times I get a call about 5 minutes after the meeting is supposed to start from someone who is circling the wrong block.

Maybe that’s why we need the Lord to lead us beside the still waters, because we would never be able to get there on our own.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him:

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