Walking sleepily to the kitchen, I sensed something was different. Glancing to my right, I saw our four-year-old neighbor standing in the entryway of our home completely unclothed except for an overloaded, saggy diaper. New to the area, I was unfamiliar with some of the habits of our neighbors. Almost speechless, I managed to say, “Well, good morning. What are you doing up so early?”Speaking with a heavy lisp, the overgrown four-year-old answered, “Can anyone pway?”“Not right now, sweetie. Everyone is still asleep. I bet your parents are looking for you. Now run back home before they miss you,” I strongly encouraged.“Evewee one is asweep. It’s OK. I can pway now,” he insisted.
Trying a different approach to get him to go back home, I said, “Shouldn’t you get dressed? It’s too cold for you to be running around without clothes on. Now go wake your mom up and tell her you need her help.”As I watched him reluctantly nod and turn to walk back out the front door, I thought, “How strange”
, but went on with my morning routine. After making my hot tea and retreating back to my bedroom to dress, I walked to the den for my morning quiet time. Standing in the entryway once again was the same four-year-old, this time holding a bundle of clothes in his hands so I could dress him.“Jimmy,” I sighed, “we will come and get you when it is time to play. Now go back home and wake somebody up so you can eat breakfast.”Later that day when he was running around our house with my little ones, I daringly retreated into the office to work. The next thing I knew, his chubby little face appeared next to me. “I spiwelled juice in the kitchen.”“OK, sweetie,” I responded calmly, thinking that was nothing unusual in this house. However, when I walked into my freshly mopped kitchen, a pond of grape juice greeted me. Pausing… really
pausing so that I would not yell at this precious, redheaded, freckled, sixty-pound four-year-old—I thought about what his life might be like at home. Yes, I guess you could say his life flashed before my eyes. I had two choices: I could give him a loud lecture listing our rules on pouring grape juice, or I could show him kindness and clean up his mess with joy.
Why does it seem like the right thing is always the hard thing? I started giving the loud lecture and then mid sentence decided on the right response. It would have felt good to lose it, but then I would have felt like a dirt bag and blown my witness to this little one.
When Jimmy grows up, I hope he will remember that the big family across the street thought he was special, because he is special. In the meantime, I think I will remember to lock my front door and put the grape juice up high.
“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.” Proverbs 19:22
Challenge: In our bustling culture, we are surrounded by hurting and lonely people. Do your kids see you loving your neighbors through little acts of kindness, or do they hear you gossiping and complaining about them? Get caught saying a kind word or baking a few extra cookies for a kid in your neighborhood today.