Sunday, December 9, 2012

A 12-year old girl taught me how to "man up" today.

Attended Salem Meithodist's 10:30 worship service this morning, and followed up by joining in the luncheon festivities which were a prelude to the children's Christmas Program.

Simply a wonderful time, GREAT FOOD (there is something about the meal presentations of the liberal Protestant and of the Islamic faith traditions that a VERY special; very communal; quite delightful), fun conversations, shared moments of joy and delight.

Then came the Christmas Program which consisted of about a dozen junior high school students singing (girls dressed angelically, boys dressed in robes), a high school student reading selections from various Gospels, a very real very young baby in swaddling clothes in a manager, two very real parents of the baby, dressed in robes by the manger, school children from very young ages to middle school ages dressed in shephard's cloths, three wise guys, cresssed as wise men, bearing gifts of cologne, PC's, and IPODs, some hamming around on stage as the shephards rode and bounced cuddly stuffed creatures across the stage, and pulled by his hands while on his stomach a second-grader.  There was enough ham for a Jimmy Dean Sausage convention.  And it was SO much fun for the participants, and thus too for the spectators.

After the program, desert was served.  Naturally, I filled up a small plate, and refilled my coffee cup, and returned to my seat, at the front of the room, right next to the six-foot high basketball hoop, where the middle school boys were playing basketball (having built up MUCH of their energies waiting quietly for the Christmas Program to start).

A thought occurred to me: "Mark, you should move.  It is not safe to drink coffee this close to the basketball hoop.  The ball could get hit and knock your coffee cup, spilling coffee and your lap, and burning your private parts, which has HAPPENED BEFORE under far less threatening circumstances."

Someday, I might write a book about the times I failed to listen to those voices in your head that labor SO HARD to guide you to safety.  But as things turned out, it was NOT the basketball GAME that was going to get me, but the basketball being kicked by the 6th-grade girl that would bowl my coffee cup up and over, soaking the pure white turtle neck I was wearing a lovely hue of mocca (cream and sweetener), soaking my hand and wrist (the right one only), splattering my right pants leg, and yes, the coffee trickeld down to that place that only physics can take it. 

My friend Jim asked, "Mark are you okay."

This was about the moment the hot coffee started to burn my loins.  No, I am not okay.  But, I DID have the presence of mind to not shout aloud some swears (wow - I CAN exhibit patience), and just grimaced and beared it, until the pain subsided, and I suspect, left me with no scabs or scars - THIS TIME.

Some adult said, "Game's over," commandeered the ball, and the children retreated behind the curtain of the stage.  About two minutes later, the young girl who had kicked the ball (I had seen her), came over to me with some candy.  She told me how sorry she was for kicking the ball and knocking my coffee over, and offered me the candy.  "I can't eat it," she said.  "I'm not supposed to," I answered.

I told her it was okay, that I was fine, and she had nothing to feel bad about.  In fact, I told her how proud I was of her for taking responsibility for her actions.  She seemed relieved, the smile returned to her face, and she went on stage and then back behind the curtain.

Only to re-appear about a minute later, her face hound-dog hung down, her eyes slightly tearing.

"What happened?  What's the matter?"  asked my buddy Jim.

"All the other kids are mad at me and won't talk to me," she said, plaintively.

"And they won't even call me by one of my names - Vickie, Vick, Tory, or Liz, or El.  The keep calling me Beth.  I hate being called Beth."

"Well, that's not fair of them at all.  It's not your fault.  They shouldn't have been playing with the ball there in the frist place.  Is your name Victoria Elizabeth?"


"Which one is your father?"

"The man over there, in the red shirt."

The more we chatted, the more her eyes dryed, and the more her smile returned.  After what may have been less than two minutes, she returned to the world of young children (rather than remain in the world of adult children, that mysterious place in the space-time-continuum that is inhabited by only SOME of the people in that place).

Her father was cleaning up.  I went over to him, and relayed the story, especially the part about how impressed I was that she took responsibility for what she had done; that she admitted it. 

"We try to raise our children right," he said.

"Well, you appear to have done very well," I replied.

"It's not really me, you see.  It's her mother."

"Well, SOMEBODY seems to have gotten it right."

Dear Lord,

Please grant that I might in all times and places
Exhibit the integrity of Victoria Elizabeth
That I take responsibility for the adverse consequences
Of my actions, that cause harm or loss or suffering to others.

Grant too that I might be as quick to forgive
Those who are not chronologically children
For their impetuousnous and recklessness
For their humanity.

I ask this, in Your Name.  AMEN.