Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: A School Trip to a Church, Mosque, Synagogue and Temple Hits a Few Roadblocks. Then, Small Miracles Happen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: A School Trip to a Church, Mosque, Synagogue and Temple Hits a Few Roadblocks. Then, Small Miracles Happen

Article excerpt

The school bus packed with seventh graders broke down in the parking lot of the ornate, white stone Hindu temple. It was already the second predicament of the field trip.

And the day had just begun.

I had volunteered to be one of the parent chaperones on this daylong adventure. We would begin at the temple, head to a church, stop at a synagogue and end at a mosque before returning to school. This whirlwind tour of world religions started to fall apart three days before we even boarded the buses.

Teachers had locked down the itinerary two months before the trip. It originally included the Cathedral Basilica, an iconic religious landmark in St. Louis. But the very day the school had to turn in the final schedule to the bus service, the Basilica informed them that a funeral service was booked for the same time they planned to bring 125 students.

Oh, the best laid plans.

World history teacher Neil Daniels had less than half an hour after school to frantically call nearby churches to find a replacement. The Baptists came through. Daniels juggled some of the time slots to accommodate the last-minute change. He also left a message for the speaker who planned to be at the temple to let him know that we would arrive earlier than expected.

The speaker never received the message.

When we showed up, we wandered into an empty meeting space. One of the seventh graders whose family worshipped at the temple stepped up and shared tenets of his faith and their religious practice with the ease of someone years older. Another Hindu middle schooler sang one of the devotional songs she knew. Their classmates respectfully asked questions about a religious tradition completely unfamiliar to nearly all of them. Afterward, we walked through the sanctuary filled with murtis adorned with garlands and jewels.

By the time we boarded the bus, it seemed the mix-up had actually brought the group closer together. So when our bus broke down, we piled into the other one, sat three to a seat and continued on our way. …

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