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THE CLASS (clown) OF 1957

"Good morning class. My name is Mr. Dampier and I will be your science teacher," said the tall, thin, well-dressed man standing before our class.

This was my first day of junior high school. I sat dreading what was about to happen next. I knew very well what the teacher was going to say.

"I would like each of you to stand up and tell everyone your name. Also, tell the class what you did over the summer holidays," he continued.

Almost every year while attending elementary school, I was faced with the same dilemma. Stand up before the class at the beginning of every year and tell them I was from the Children's Home Orphanage, that I never had a summer vacation, that I worked every day, all day long, raking leaves and pine-straw, that I washed pots and pans in the kitchen and that I washed and waxed floors almost every weekend. The rest of the time, I sat alone in my room just staring out the window, all the while hoping someone would come along and adopt me. That someone would care enough to take me away from the terrible orphanage.

Starting on the left side of the room, the kids began to stand up. One after the other, everyone told their name. Several went on and on about their trip to the beach. One even gave a short speech about having gone to Australia and other foreign places.

"Please dear God. Please let me know what to say when it gets to be my turn," I thought.

I just could not understand why I was so afraid of everyone or why I was afraid to speak out loud in public. I began to sweat and my hands shook.

"Please, I must have something important I can say," I thought.

My mind raced in a never-ending circle. I could feel my heart beating in the side of my neck and my heart felt as if it were going to explode inside my chest.

"Oh God, just five more before it gets to me," I mumbled.

Then it was four and then it was three. Then it was two and now it was my turn. I turned my shaky legs sideways to my desk and slowly rose to my feet. I stood fully erect and scratched the top of my head. I did not have the slightest idea of what to say. Finally, my mouth opened and I said, "My name is Roger Kiser and I caught a duck when I went fishing." Everyone started to laugh.

"I caught it while I was fishing. It got tangled in the fishing line and it choked to death," I continued.

Again, everyone started laughing, this time even harder. Even the teacher began to laugh. Then I did too.

"Then one of the duck's eyes popped out and it landed in the water," I yelled.

The entire classroom was in a state of laughing chaos. One boy even fell off his desk and began kicking on the floor, he was laughing so hard. The more I said, the more the class laughed. Finally, the bell rang and things came somewhat back to order. I watched as several girls wiped tears from their eyes from laughing so hard.

That was a great day in my life. Why I said what I did is beyond me. I do not have the slightest idea where that story came from. Maybe it came from God, Himself. All I know is that after the class was dismissed, many of the kids came up and slapped me on the back. They told me it was the funniest story they had ever heard. I almost felt like crying, but I held back the tears. It was good feeling to have someone tell me they liked me. I was not use to words like that at the orphanage.

My life changed that day. I learned that people like being around people who make them laugh. Though my life was never any better at the orphanage, I did become somewhat of a class clown. Gradually and very slowly, I came out of my shell. Even though it may have only been for a few hours each day, while attending school. For once in my life I had found out something about myself -something special that other people liked about me. It was a good feeling and it made me feel happy inside. I had, for the very first time in my life, become something more than just an orphan.

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