She didn’t mean to break the coffee cup. I shouldn’t have yelled at her, but it was one of “those” mornings. I had bolted out of the chute late that morning. Trying to make up for lost time, I impatiently lassoed my four-year-old son, hogtying him just long enough to get his shoes on. I shouted instructions to Jennifer, my first-grader. “Get your shoes on, get your backpack and don’t forget that library book!” My patience had worn as thin as frog hair split four ways. He needed to get to Grandmother’s house, she needed to get to school and I needed to begin my hour long drive toward getting re-certified to teach kids her age. That’s when the coffee cup crashed to the floor.
Yes, it was an accident, but the saved time had just become lost again. I yelled at her – something about being more careful. She cried and I swept. My son was young, but not too young to know he’d better behave and be quiet. My own internal motor revved as we dropped Jarrod off and then continued a little too quickly to school. I made an attempt to wish her a good day as she got out of the car, but that sad face stuck with me.
A few miles later, guilt set in. I turned the car around and thought, “I’ll just have to be late.” I back-tracked to the school and asked the teacher if I could see her in the hall for a minute. She came out looking a little confused about why I was there. I got down on my knees so I could look her in the eyes and said, “I am so sorry about yelling at you this morning. I know breaking the cup was just an accident. I messed up and I’m sorry.” She just smiled and said, “It’s okay!”
And it really was. In fact, many years later I asked her if she remembered that episode and she didn’t. All had truly been forgiven.
A couple of years later, my son, Jarrod, was about 6 when we visited my grandparents, Mema and Papa, in Auburn. Heisman trophy winner and all-around athlete, Bo Jackson, played baseball for the Kansas City Royals and was one of Jarrod’s heroes. Bo still lived in Auburn during the off season and my grandparents were friends with his neighbors who watched the place while he was away. That made it convenient for Mema and Papa to ask Jarrod if he would like to go take a look at Bo’s house and just walk around the yard. Jarrod couldn’t wait. We walked around the yard, peeked in the garage and Jarrod picked up a rock as a souvenir. But, what I remember the most was the question Jarrod asked Papa. “Papa, am I kin to Bo?” Papa just put his hand on Jarrod’s shoulder, smiled and said, “Well, you do have the same last name, but I don’t think you are related.” Jarrod looked a little disappointed and then went on exploring the yard. Papa looked at me and laughed. Then he said, “He’s never noticed the color difference. Has he? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all saw things the way kids see them? Everybody would be the same.”
At this point we could talk about the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 and how Jesus wanted His followers to stop thinking so much about acting right and begin focusing on becoming right. Or we could go to Romans 12 and be reminded to honor others above ourselves. But, instead, I think I’ll just ask a few questions and let you finish this post in your own mind and heart.
At what age do we learn to harbor hurt feelings and make forgiveness so difficult?
When do we begin to notice color or class and let prejudice set it?
How old do we have to be to begin understanding stereotypes?
Have we learned to see others the way Jesus sees them and forgive the way He’s forgiven us?
Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”