Saturday, November 15, 2014

Days before death, Sunday school teacher got to see her book published

For more than 50 years, Edith Collins taught young children at Myers Park Baptist Church.

And during those decades of Sunday school and Through-the-Week school, Collins filed away stories about these 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds whose first and maybe best memories of the Charlotte church were of gentle “Miss E.”

Collins’ dream was to fill a book with these stories.

About Allison, the precocious little girl who responded to a recording of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by spreading her arms and “flying” around the room to the rhythm of the music.

About Adam, who riveted the class during Circle Time one Sunday morning with his report on a trip to the doctor and how the M.D. had said that his brain was boiling. (Translation: He probably had a high fever).

And about how, during the reading of “Jack be nimble ...,” one little boy taught the other children compassion by taking the hand of Judy, who had cerebral palsy, and helping her jump over the imaginary candlestick.

This dream-of-a-book was finally published this year, in April, as Collins, 87, struggled with illness.

Because of her declining health, her family and friends at Myers Park Baptist got the publisher, Lorimer Press in Davidson, to rush the first copy off the press.

When “Sprouting Acorns” by Edith Collins was presented to the author, “she just beamed and held the book,” says Myers Park Baptist member Ed Williams. “You could see the joy in her face.”

Four days later, Collins died.

But at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 20) at Park Road Books, members of Collins’ church will gather to read from her book.

Among the scheduled readers: Bill Walker, retired WSOC-TV anchor; the Rev. Robin Coira, executive minister and the first woman ordained by Myers Park Baptist; poet-historian Mary Kratt; poet Kathie Collins; writer Lisa Rubenson; lawyer Ray Owens, the son of former Myers Park Baptist pastor Gene Owens; and Williams, former editorial page editor at the Observer.

They’ve now published enough copies of “Sprouting Acorns” to sell, for $12.99, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, and at Myers Park Baptist, 1900 Queens Road.

Teacher Collins dreamed up that title because she considered her work to be turning tiny acorns into great oaks – or “sprouting children,” as she explains in the introduction.

“She just loved children,” Coira says. “And she had a magical quality that drew the children to her.”

The book’s stories, written with grace and wisdom and featuring the kids’ charming drawings of cats and birds and space rockets, offer a master class in how to deal with children, featuring an ever-curious and always-encouraging Edith Collins.

-- Tim Funk