During a year’s sabbatical I was taking from the ministry, I substitute taught for a kindergarten class. One day a boy named Freddie was being stingy at the listening lab. I was shorthanded and there were no extra parents to volunteer assistance. Freddie had already taken the best earphones from a girl in his group—by force. She was whimpering.
There weren’t enough books so Freddie was supposed to share his with the student next to him, but he was refusing to do that. Freddie was also controlling the tape recorder that played the story while the kids followed in their books.
I heard a faint chorus of, “Mr. C.…Mr. C., coming from that corner of the room. When I arrived, Freddie was in his own little self-absorbed world of egocentricity, looking deeply into his own book, his ears covered with earphones, his fingers on the recorder’s buttons, and listening to whatever he darn-well pleased.
I pulled Freddie’s earphones from his ears so he could hear me and scolded, “Freddie, what are you doing? Do you think you are the only one in your group?”
A little shocked and embarrassed because I surprised him, Freddie looked up at me with his eyebrows furled into a position that reflected the anger in his heart.
I continued scolding, “Freddie, you know you have to share at this lab because we don’t have enough books for everyone. And why are you stopping the tape? Alright Michele, you take control of the tape recorder. Freddie, you give your book to Sarah.”
Freddie furled his eyebrows in even deeper disgust, because now I wasn’t just scolding, I was shaming him in front of the other kids…and I was taking his control away from him. If looks could kill, I would have fallen dead on the spot. He then buried his head, face and shoulders down into a corner and went into a full pout. He was mad.
To insure he didn’t take back control, I appointed one of the other kids as a guard and reporter. “Derrick,” I said, “You let me know if Freddie tries to take over again.”
Well, I had lost a friend in Freddie. It was all over his face, at least what I could see of it. It was buried down beneath the table refusing to come up for air, in an effort to let me know how disgusted he was with me.
Sensitive to having lost a friend, about five minutes later I came back over to the lab and tapped Freddie’s still-buried shoulders. He turned and looked at me but nothing had changed. His eyebrows were still wrinkled in anger, and he was now moving his lips and gritting his teeth in distain.
I asked, “Are you alright Freddie?” In response, he squinted his eyes and yanked his head back into his tiny world of spite.
A few minutes later the groups changed positions. I looked up as the kids moved to their next stations. Freddie moved as well but he did so with jerky deliberate movements to show his disgust. He stood up angrily and shoved his chair back under the table he was sitting at in an irritated fashion. He then twisted his body around and stomped over to his next learning table. His face was still distorted in anger. When he arrived at his chair he plopped down, folded his arms, and continued his pout-fest.
I forgot about it after that. The lab time was about fifteen minutes long, and I was seated at the reading table.
In ten minutes I heard a little voice behind me say, “Mr. C., do you like my drawing?”
I turned to see who it was, and there was Freddie. He had a smile on his face and was holding up his paper proudly for me to see.
I said “That looks great Freddie. I love the colors you chose.”
And that was the end of it. Freddie and I were best buds again. It was as if nothing ever happened; because kids let things go. I’m not sure why they are able to do this so well, but they do.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). In my opinion, this is one childlike attitude that is present in true children of God.
O Lord, enable us as Your children to tap into our childlikeness, that we too, might “let things go”. Amen.