When I was in elementary school, I learned the art of punching people in the gut. I was a very little guy, so I probably aimed for the gut because the nose was too high for me to reach. I didn’t like fights, mind you, but in elementary school there were times when my anger got the best of me and I resorted to childish behavior. The first time I ever punched a kid in the gut was in second grade. We just came in from gym class and, as was to be expected, my team lost.
Ricky and I were waiting in line for our turn at the water fountain.
Ricky: Ha ha, Calvin, we won! You lost! We won! You lost!
Me: Shut up Ricky!
Ricky: Ha ha, we won! You lost! We won! You lost!
(Sound of a fist punching Ricky’s stomach.)
(Sound of Ricky whimpering.)
Favorite Teacher: Calvin, what did you do? I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a nice boy.
You’d think I would have learned my lesson when I disappointed Favorite Teacher, but instead I became a hardened gut-punching criminal. A few months later I was hanging out with my new best friend, Jimmy. I really liked being friends with Jimmy because his family had money so Jimmy owned all the Tonka trucks ever made. Plus, when I went to play at Jimmy’s house I was sometimes invited to stay for lunch if I asked several times. The problem with having Jimmy as my new best friend was . . . Bobby, my old best friend.
New Best Friend Jimmy and I were hanging out on the playground one day and I felt a tugging on my arm. I turned back and there was Old Best Friend Bobby clinging to my sleeve.
Me: Bobby, stop hanging around me, I want to play with Jimmy!
Bobby: But we’re best friends.
Me: But I’m tired of hanging out with you!
Bobby: But I want to play.
Me: LEAVE ME ALONE.
Jimmy runs on.
(Sound of my fist punching Bobby’s stomach.)
(Sound of Bobby crying LOUDLY.)
Me (feeling guilty): I’m sorry.
Me: Forgive me?
Bobby: Can we be friends?
Me: Yes. I’m sorry.
And before I had time to say anything else, Bobby got this huge grin on his face. He grabbed my arms and started laughing and jumping up and down. And for some reason I forgot all about what had happened, and I started laughing and jumping up and down, too.
I’m not really sure what was in Bobby’s mind that April day on the playground. I screwed up. I was a lousy, rude, self-centered, friend. I was trying to ditch Bobby and when I couldn’t get my way, I punched him in the gut. And all Bobby wanted to do was grab my arms, and laugh, and jump up and down, and dance. If I ever meet God on a playground, I think he will be a lot like Bobby. Here I am having pushed God aside again for another best friend, crawling back to ask forgiveness. . . . But as soon as God sees me, He gets this huge grin on His face and welcomes me back with open arms. He welcomes me back. Then He starts jumping up and down and laughing as He grabs my arms. Once He sees me, all God wants to do is dance.
Calvin G. Roso © January 2014