It has been a year, and a quarter, since I last offered this story, here. Because it was a defining moment (in many ways) in my life-walk, and many new Folks are now visiting here, I will, probably, resurrect it once, each year. With the spirit of this Happening encouraging me, I am planning to offer myself, as a Reader, to the Principal of an Elementary School just down the road from my home. It is, what is referred to as, an "At Risk School." This means that the populace of the school is made up of many who would be of the same ilk, as the young Lad, of this Story. I present the experience with a prayer that You, My Dear Reader, will find some encouragement, insight, or merit, of value to you, in it. That said ... here 'tis ...
“Who are you?” was the question thrust upon me by the challenging five year old kindergarten student as he set his back stiffly in its most erect pose. Pretty impressive stuff from a child toward a physically imposing adult male who was a total unknown to the child. Not to be channeled into his obviously well-rehearsed performance, I countered with “More to the point, (pretty cool, eh… using phraseology that was alien to the lad) … just who are you?!” Now we were engaged in the stand-off. Two duelers faced with the unspoken, but clearly understood standard that 'he who gives the answer first is the loser.’ But, here I genuinely wanted to know just who this fellow was. Not just his label … his name, but who he wanted me to know him to be.
We waited. Others at the service desk of the elementary school library ... waited. All eyes were now fixed on the young lad. He was, quite obviously, uneasy with this turn in a game that had historically garnered for him control of those upon whom he leveled his attack. Then, into the breach came a young man (an 'advanced’ age of eight years… but clearly an 'upper-classman’ in this arena) who turned to the boy (who for convenience, I will call Robert) and said “Hey man, the guy really wants to know who you are … you know … like what kind of a person are you?” I was shouting a silent inner cheer for this interceder who so beautifully cleared the air.
“I am bad” came the reply from Robert’s not-so-defiant lips. I was stunned … silence reigned at the library counter. All … students, and staff … were stilled with this declaration from a five-year-old boy … and I knew that this was a moment of pivotal significance. Not only for Robert; but also for the lad who had prompted him into this announcement; for the children who stood in silent recognition that this boy had made an honest, candid, and obviously painful statement of his inner perception of himself. I looked into Robert’s eyes ... really looked … focused into him. I gave him a moment to recognize the fact that, for me, right then, in that moment there existed no one in the world but Him.
Then I smiled a smile of appreciation and respect and said “Wow!, You are really smart! You are making a really good joke on someone! I am impressed! You must be … like a movie actor or something. Because I am a really smart man. And I know about how people are. And I am really good at spotting good people, and bad people (I then turned to the librarian and asked her to validate the truths that I had just stated, as to my credibility … for The Moment was at hand.) I can tell that you are really a very good guy … I know this… I can tell every time. So you must be making a super good joke on someone to make them think that a really good guy … is bad. I think that you must be a terrific actor.” And, My Dear Reader, I wish that I had at my disposal the ability to adequately portray the look of utter … Hope … that came across Robert’s face. Here this person of a mere five years was … soundly convinced that he, a human being, just the initial sprouting of an individual … was inherently, hopelessly, and forever bad. And some big old, imposing, white-bearded man was telling him that it was but a joke … a misunderstanding … a folly. I asked him if he would do me the honor of being my friend and we exchanged names and a bit more about ourselves.
I will not drone on about the comments from teachers and counselors who later shared notes with each other about this transformed young man. He had, obviously, made some adjustment in his game and had decided to only 'fool’ others into thinking him to be bad on selective occasions. And we enjoyed seeing each other and complimenting each others’ roles when I had the weekly opportunity to read to his class in the library. But the point in this is not this isolated happening.
The message, so clearly and eloquently communicated by Robert and his Moment, is this. We all … every single one of us … have an inner sense of who we are. Like Robert, we have been given this “script” by otherwise loving, caring, well-intentioned (yes, I do know that I am being generous here) Significant Others throughout the course of our lives. And … we buy it. We give these people our trust, our confidence, our faith in their 'superior’ powers of judgment, and we live out the roles that they hand us.
I ask that you put yourself in the person of Robert when I asked him “Who told you that you are bad? Was it someone here at school? Or was it at home? Who did you fool into believing this joke?” and ask yourself, Dear Friend, “Who am I listening to? What qualifies that person to fix a defining label on my spirit? Why am I succumbing to this influence? Wouldn’t I enjoy taking up a script of my own choosing and playing a new role that meets my inner desires?” I do not suggest that this is as easily accomplished in the well over-rehearsed and time-reinforced role of the more experienced adult. But I do offer the hope.
And in that hope, I remain, as always, Your loving Friend and willing Servant.
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