DEARING --- "When you realize that you are important, then nobody else can make you feel bad," the Rev. Rodney Lockett said.
The pastor of Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church drove home that message in his presentation to the McDuffie Educational and Enrichment Program for Students at Dearing Elementary School.
"Whatever career that you have is important, and it's important because you are doing it," he told his Jan. 21 audience of about 60 pupils.
"That means doing the right thing at the right time even though you don't want to do it," he continued.
"You're working on being an adult right now; did you know that?"
"When I was in school, I did not have any idea I would be doing what I'm doing now," he said.
However, he said, he must draw from the very skills he gathered in elementary school, such as reading and research skills.
"I have to use my elementary skills to preach, and I have to be able to read," he said.
He asked every child in the lunchroom to stand and say, "I am important."
The Rev. Lockett said elementary school builds a foundation for life, just as the foundation protects the school building.
"The foundation has to be strong; it has to be straight. The school stays strong for a lot of years because the foundation is strong. That's what elementary school is for you," he said.
"What happens in elementary school is you start learning the basics for life," he said, explaining that students must know how to handle money, banking and investments.
They also must find self-esteem.
"So your whole life is based upon how you feel about yourself," he said.
"It doesn't matter what anyone else says about you. It doesn't matter what you look like. Be happy with who you are. Everybody is beautiful, and everybody is wonderful."
The Rev. Lockett also told the children to take responsibility for their actions.
"When you make somebody feel alone, it's as if they're not important," he said. "So we have to realize that we have to treat everybody right, treat everybody good, because that person is just as important as you are."
Each person also must be able to speak out when a friend mistreats others, he said.
Finally, he said, each person must apologize for any bullying and must correct that behavior. "You can go to the person that you bullied and tell them that you're sorry. Now they might not believe that at first," he said. "But they will when you're nice to them."
Regina Bell-Vestal, the site coordinator for the MEEPS program, said eligible students gather in the lunchroom each Friday after school to hear programs such as the one presented by the Rev. Lockett. Other topics have included fire safety and pie-making.
The Rev. Lockett also recounted his military experience, including in wartime. "We fought against Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the first time," he said.
"What's that?" asked a tiny voice.