I made a little girl cry yesterday. To be honest I'm not quite sure what I did. She was sitting in a friend's lap; she was staring at me. I thought she wanted to play a game. I hid behind the water cooler, trying the classic "Hide 'N Seek" knowing it's a surefire winner. The cute little blonde girl turned her face away so I thought I was somewhat successful. I didn't know that she would then turn her face back toward me as tears began to well up in her eyes. In an instant her cuteness turned to horror as she began to belt out loud wails like a coyote howling at the moon.
However, the dagger that was in my heart was twisted and shoved deeper by her mother when she said, "She's never done anything like this before."
I got back to the office (I work in Admissions) and shared the story with co-workers. One of them was surprised, sharing in my shock, because she was under the assumption that I am pretty good with kids. I would like to think that is true about me, but then again, with children, I never know. I said, "Well I'm a pretty polarizing person. You either really like me, or you really hate me." Another co-worker chimed in with a question: "Are you like that with adults too?"
Here's where the lesson comes in. My answer was, "I don't know." The reason is found in the beautiful innocence of the child who is probably still screaming as I type this. In that moment I knew exactly where I stood with that little girl. I was trying to play an innocent game and though she was afraid of me, she was not scared to let me know how she really felt. Children are good with this in other areas as well. They don't gossip. Little three year-old Billy doesn't talk to his buddies in pre-school about Bobby's bad breath; Billy just blurts out, "Bobby! Yowr bref stinks!"
I said that I don't know where I stand with adults because most of the time adults lack the child-like innocence of forthright speech (or action in the case of the bawling baby). We have the inglorious tendency to laugh with those we laugh at later on that day with friends. Grown up Billy won't tell co-worker Bobby his breath stinks, but he will tell Mike and Tom and Jenny and Tammy. They will all agree with him and start making jokes, all the while Billy thinks he's cool with them all. An older little blond girl isn't going to cry when she sees me (at least I hope not), but she will tell her mom and friends how scary I am with my hairy face (it's Octobeard so the facial hair is a little thick these days).
Somewhere along the way we lose the innocent forthrightness of being a child. We call it being polite. Instead we gossip or play down situations to be less of something than they really are. Rarely these days do people share how they truly feel about one another for the sake of each other. It can be something as small as hygiene. More importantly it can be about reconciliation and sanctification.
Maybe we don't have to shriek like that little girl, but I think we should all take a lesson from her and countless children who let us know how they feel about us nearly every moment we are around them. Then we might see what being adults actually means.
By His Grace.