Monday, January 18, 2010

Following the lead

We want various things out of life: success, love, acceptance, the list can go on and on.

As humans, we seek these things in various ways. Yet sometimes we find them – or good examples of them - in the most unexpected places.

Recently I learned a great lesson in acceptance from a four year old boy.

My friends, Michael and Alicia, have two sons. Though both are definitely children – and both are definitely boys – I don’t know two other brothers who are quite the opposites as these two. But the harmony seems to work well in the Doran household.

Both of the Doran boys are precious and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to get to know them and to watch them grow up. Tripp is so quiet you often forget he is around. Archer, the younger of the two, is … hmmm … well … wide open. He never does anything in first gear and seems to have a comment for everything going on around him. Although he is only four, Archer is right on target with his observations much of the time. Sometimes he simply amazes you with his insight.

On New Year’s Eve, I realized that I was a part of his world when we got ready to leave the church and Archer looked up, took my hand and said, “Come on, Kim, let’s go!” making certain I didn’t get left behind.

But it was another encounter where I really knew I was “in.”

After church at Crosswind Sunday night, a group of us decided to go out to eat. Archer soon became the event coordinator showing everyone where they were to be seated. “You sit there and I’m going to sit there,” Archer said to me, pointing at two side-by-side seats.

Table banter quickly started and from time to time I would tease Archer about something. Noticing his brother had a pickle spear and Archer didn’t, he piped up and said, “Mama, I need a pickle!”

Alicia picked up the pickle spear from her plate and was just about to reach across the table to hand it to Archer when he spotted a pickle spear on my plate, grabbed it and said, “I found one!”

Not fazed at all by his action, I picked up my sandwich and took a bite of it as Alicia began apologizing for Archer nabbing my pickle. I quickly told her not to worry about it at all since people eating from my plate had never bothered me in the least.

In reality, though, Archer’s actions spoke volumes to me. Why? Because he has accepted me as part of his life, he felt comfortable enough to take my pickle from my plate. Even at four. Some folks would say he might have exhibited better manners had he actually asked if he could have the pickle. I don’t agree. The action of Archer simply getting the pickle showed me that he had accepted me to a point that he knew I wouldn’t mind sharing my pickle with him and that he was so comfortable with that thought process that he didn’t even have to ask for it.

OK, OK, I know … I’m reading way too much pop psychology into the reaction of a four-year-old who, more than likely, just wanted a pickle and mine was the nearest available one. So he nabbed it. But maybe I’m not. Maybe the four-year-old is exhibiting the kind of humanity we all need to learn even as adults. That’s what I’m going with in this scenario. Because he has accepted me into his life, he is comfortable with me enough to know what my response would be to any of his actions.

That’s probably very heavy expectations for a child, but not so much for an adult.
Archer’s action was a good example of the lesson Bobby Capps had just attempted to show us in his sermon just minutes before. In his talk, Bobby explained that people often feel shame because of something they’ve done, something they perceive themselves to be, something they are (ie a little different or strange) or basically because they feel unaccepted.

Because of a simple gesture, a four-year-old made me feel as if I had the seal of approval in his little world. And it felt good.

It also challenged me to make certain I allow those folks around me who I deem important to feel the same. And that I’m careful to not make them feel unaccepted and unwanted.

Funny how children can lead, huh?