By Stacey Espiritu
I struggled to push the baby stroller over the uneven sidewalk pavement in order to keep up with my enthusiastic five-year-old, who was bubbling over with excitement.
“Will there be other kids at the park?”
“Of course! It’s a beautiful day.”
At this he practically danced along, using every bit of restraint he had to heed my warning to not get too far ahead of me.
The first real day of spring was upon us, when coats could be left in the closet and bare arms delighted at the embrace of a warm breeze. The smell of mown grass and budding trees was absolutely intoxicating, and my son’s delight was stirring in me, as well.
It had been a rough week of almost no sleep, and we were coming out from under a few weeks of bronchitis – first Harry, my eldest, then Peter, my baby, and then me. And a greater sickness in my chest was for my husband, who had lost his job two months earlier. The job search was taking its toll. Frustration and depression hovered over our house like a cloud. His faith was being tested while all I could do was watch and pray, and try to protect our sons from being effected by it.
To see Harry now put some of my fears to rest, and I thanked God for the opportunity to get outside. Harry was also coming out of a rough year – having had to adjust to a new home, a new brother, and a new school. Now in kindergarten, he had adjusted amazingly well after having come from a full-day preschool program centered on overcoming developmental delays and some autistic behaviors, as well as speech, occupational, and physical therapies. At age three and four, his day had been as long as some adults, and his work just as hard. Seeing him now in a regular kindergarten class, I was so proud. No one would even know what he’d been through, and, except for a bit of an atypical obsession with animals, he was a thriving five-year-old. And, this particular day, he was an example to his weary mom in how to live out the fruits of the Spirit.
As we neared the park, I noticed one of the boys from our neighborhood coming towards us. He was probably eight or nine year old. I didn’t know his name, as we were still new to the area, and I was admittedly a bit overprotective in letting Harry go out and play, knowing how cruel kids can be when they detect the slightest difference. Before I could deter him, Harry ran up to the boy and exuberantly yelled, “Guess what! We’re going to the PARK!”
The boy didn’t even stop walking. He just looked at Harry with indifference (bordering on contempt), and continued on without acknowledging him. My mother bear instincts chomped at the bit as I held back my tongue. “Can’t you just say, ‘that’s nice?’” I wanted to rebuke. “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?” my baser thoughts rages. I caught up with Harry, prepared to hug him and tell him sometimes people can be rude. But his reaction caught me completely off guard. The look on his face was not of hurt, or frustration, or even confusion. It looked like compassion.
“Oh, he must be shy, Mom.” Before I could think of what to say, he thought another few seconds and then added, “Or maybe he has a sore throat. Poor kid.”
Wow. I thought of how I react when I feel snubbed – a call not returned, a hello unanswered, an effort unnoticed… pride of the flesh would often spur a reaction more childish than my child. His reaction, though simple, exhibited goodness. And kindness. Thinking of others, even those who hurt you, before yourself. No wonder Jesus says whoever humbles himself like a child will be greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. I have a lot to learn from mine.