Yesterday I popped into my local convenience store to buy a Grape NOS energy drink (hey, don’t judge me!), and witnessed something which made me sick. This older gentleman, perhaps 60 years of age, spoke hatefully, seemingly to nobody, “C’mon! Hurry up!” When he took a couple more steps I noticed a toddler was following behind him, previously hidden by the grumpy ole dude.
Now, I know I’m a father, a grandpa (aka “Poppy”) and a writer, so not only am I (perhaps) overly sentimental, but am used to telling stories. Thus, it would be easy for me to “enhance” this incident with much more flowery descriptions. But I haven’t, in this case. This kid was adorable. He was maybe three years old, with short, brown hair, blue eyes and stained, ragged clothing. He looked up at me for just a second, and then looked back down to the floor with a despondent stare. His eyes were sad.
“Pick something to drink!” the older man snapped, opening a door which had many different types of chilled soda behind it.
I saw just the hint of a smile don the little boy’s face, looking at all the colorful choices. His eyes darted back, forth, up and down for maybe eight seconds before the man decided the boy had looked long enough.
“Just PICK something!” he said angrily. “God, it’s not rocket science!”
I thought, “Man, I gotta get outta here, because I’m either about to say something to this moron, or call DFS or the cops.” But he wasn’t physically hurting him so there was nothing I could do. I whispered a prayer for God’s mistreated, little child and walked out.
When I was sitting in my car, I made a phone call to my son. I needed to hear my boy’s voice, just to balance things out in my head. As I was talking, the boy came out of the store, still staring at the ground, trailing behind the man. The older gentleman opened the passenger door to an old, rusty pick-up truck, put the boy in his car seat, slammed the door and cursed. The boy then glanced at me through our windows, with a heartsick look I won’t forget for a long time.
“…the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison (James 3:8)!”
So what could I have done? Man, I don’t know. It’s still eating at me, and I am praying the boy has a positive, male role model to pattern himself after, as my grandson has in his father, or that God sends him one. I pray there is at least one person in his life who will make him giggle, as toddlers are supposed to do. I pray he’s able to play superhero, where, in his fantasies, he rises above all the darkness in his life. I pray someone tickles him on a regular basis, to get him giggling again after his little heart has once more been broken. I pray God send him positivity in his life, somehow, in some way.
Please God let it be so.
I’ve always told my kids—regarding them, and now my grandkids—that this is precisely why my wife and I try to treat them as well as we can. This is why we love and nurture them. This is why I apologize if I get impatient with them. This is why our family spends most of our time smiling and laughing. Somehow, treating our family with love and respect helps to balance out the evil we see every day.
It doesn’t balance out the violence and death in our neighborhood or our city, but it does in our spirit, and that’s how we live with all the horror in this wretched world.
“It is the greatest joy of my life to hear that my children are consistently living their lives in the ways of truth (3 John 1:4)!”
It fills my heart with great joy to know my daughter and son-in-law are raising my grandchildren to not only be good, upstanding citizens and well-balanced human beings, but followers of Jesus Christ.
I implore you to watch every word you say to the children in your life. Be aware of your inflection and your actions. Negativity, no matter how seemingly insignificant to us, is heart-breaking to them.
I still remember once when I rolled my eyes and sighed when my daughter was taking a little longer to get ready for bed than what I expected. This was over 25 years ago, when she was just a toddler herself, but I’ve never forgotten the look on her face.
It was a look which said, “I’m sorry I let you down, daddy. Please don’t be mad at me.”
That’s just one of many sorrows I will someday lay at Jesus’ feet when I enter Heaven’s gates. I wish I could just lay them all down right now, but perhaps that’s part of what pushes me to be a better person.
I wrote about this incident in another blog many months ago, and I’ll repeat what I said then: Sometimes I feel I’ve spent every day since trying to make up for that one event. I made her feel like she let me down, when in all actuality, it was the opposite; I let her down, big time.
To those of you who, as children, were constantly screamed at, pushed around and made to feel you let your parents or guardians down, please let me say: I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’m so sorry you were made to feel like a loser, simply because you didn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations. I’m so sorry for the heartbreak you experienced. I’m so sorry for the tears you shed, wondering what you could’ve done differently. I’m so very, very sorry.
Even when we’re worn out and aggravated, we must keep in mind it’s not right to take it out on a child. We must encourage them every chance we get!
“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch (i.e. “bless”) them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: ‘Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’ Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them (Mark 10:13-16, emphasis and additional description in parenthesis added by author).”
Jesus was exhausted, and his disciples merely wanted to “protect” Him by not allowing a group of children to invade His private time, but Jesus replied, “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between me and them.”
I know I’m overprotective sometimes, and have nearly gotten into fights trying to protect my kids, but today they are happy, healthy and loved. They are well-adjusted and content, and that’s all that matters to me.
“He (Jesus) put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, ‘Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me’ (Mark 9:36-37, additional description in parenthesis added by author).”
When it’s brought to your recollection, please whisper a prayer for the sad, little convenience store boy, and for all the unloved children of the world. I know that sounds like something from an old, Michael Jackson video (RIP), but I’m being completely serious about this.
Blessings to you, and may God send an extra-special blessing to the little ones, carried on the wings of a beautiful angel, bearing giggles in her pocket.