“No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” is an old chant kids would repeat in a deliriously happy voice on the last day of school. Is it true? Is there no learning on those hot, heady days of summer?

When you’re young, summer is like a spacious forest glade bordered by shady wooded paths that lead to soccer camp, baseball, family reunions and all the other delights warm weather brings. And there was always the faint smell of strawberries in the air. I thought of this the other day passing a church with a poster announcing that vacation Bible school (VBS) would soon start with crafts, games, food and learning new things relating to the Bible.

The VBS I attended many years ago had Bible heroes as its theme. One could choose from such figures as Moses, David, Samson and others from the Old Testament. There were New Testament heroes as well. I could appreciate these characters because of what they accomplished and because the Bible reveled all their flaws. They were not perfect. They were like me. I could relate. They all had a weakness that led to an error in judgment, a flaw, and I had a flaw or two of mine own as well.

In regular school we learned about our American heroes. But these heroes seemed to be perfect. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln were virtuous and brave, never wavering from what was true and good. They were like gods with no fatal flaws. They were much too good for me to copy. It would be impossible.

If one was a history buff, the truth would be learned about our American heroes. Some college professors delighted in exposing the weaknesses of these great men. Many students were disillusioned by these revelations. Not me. I could appreciate them as never before simply because, with all their faults, they were able to make such profound contributions to the American story. They became humans at last.

I suppose we do it today, too. We latch onto a religious or political figure who has charisma, self-confidence and a “new” message and believe him or her to be perfect. An imperfection may later be revealed by some enemy and we suddenly turn our backs, giving up on the perfect one.

We are, however, a forgiving people. All a disgraced celebrity has to do is admit the mistake, apologize and do a little rehab. We forgive but never forget. We shake our heads and go on naively looking for the next person to worship who has the courage, honesty and brilliance — blended with a touch of sensitivity — that we admire.

There was one who had the qualities we hold dear, and what’s more, He was perfect. He was the God-man, Christ. He took the side of the underdog, loved the unlovely, and he knew how to weep. His mission was one of love and sacrifice. He gave mankind a message of hope and renewal based on forgiveness. He was human and divine. He was perfection.

Following him allows one not to become perfect, but to learn and grow. We become more like Him in accepting others. We see His plan for our lives and learn the true meaning of what love can be. I wish all those great VBS teachers much success in these “learning days” of midsummer.

Ted Wallace is a retired teacher and radio disc jockey. His email address is [email protected]