"Guess what...I was mean to Hunter and it was funny," my young friend chuckled as I emerged from kitchen into the back yard. My eyes grew wide as I contemplated what to do. This friend of mine was 8, he knew better, and he was under my care for the afternoon.
"Buddy, I think you need to sit out for awhile," I said in a concerned and disappointed voice. I didn't know what would follow. I've never had to put this kid in anything close to a time out. I'm pretty sure I've never even used a concerned and disappointed voice with him, and it broke my heart to do so. I led him, protesting, to the bottom step in my entryway. He was crying. Hard. I left him sitting there for a few minutes as I resumed the business of protecting Noel from herself.
When I returned, he was still very upset. "So what did you do?" I asked because I really didn't know. "I threw things at Hunter. Bardo was doing it and it was funny." Bummer, my son, the example. And then my friend wailed, "And I was just baptized."
And then my heart broke. Tears came so quickly, as I replied as gently yet as firmly as I could. "Oh A. That's why we need Jesus." Our discussion continued; I explained to A that he could make it right and that he would be okay. I explained to him that I make mistakes every single day. Now I don't know if anything I said mattered to him, but as I was saying it, I felt anew how much it mattered to me. My life is staked on the plan that we're here to be tested and do our very best to know God, to be God's friend, and that Jesus is the only way we can return to our loving Heavenly Father. And he is loving! I promise. I could feel his love for me, for A and for everybody in that moment.
As we continued our discussion, A confided in me that he felt like being funny was one of his talents, but he did not feel like playing with dogs was one of his talents. Does that happen to you when you mess up? Do you despair, feel inadequate, almost want to give up? It happens to me. And it happened to A, too, for a moment. But the next moment A filled with light, and he realized that it wasn't a talent because he had never even tried. He went out to the backyard. I showed A "fetch" and "tug-of-war." A wasn't quite ready to try those games that day, but as A was getting ready to go back home, I watched him kneel next to my dog and ever so gently stroke his back.