Saturday, April 20, 2013

Zen and the Art of Little Green Army Men.

"Deep meaning lies often in childish play." ~ Johann Friedrich von Schiller

So, there's this little boy in our neighborhood…who is most certainly the runt of the litter. The older boys tend to tease him so—and are, at times even...just a little too rough with him.

I saw today as I looked out my window, the older boys were out playing "war." After much pleading and carrying on, these boys finally let the little one join their play.

Oh, and to see the excitement in that little guys face as he raced to retrieve his very best toys—a small plastic bag of those little green army men, and a gift from his Father...the soldier. His Dad, you see, had been deployed overseas, sadly missing his only son's birthday. The box arrived just the other day, and was filled with, among other things, these most special soldiers.

"I'm going to go play Army," he shouted to me...as he raced off through the yard and to the trees.

I don't know quite what kept me, standing outside and watching over...call it instinct or a Mother's second sense, but I knew these boys were up to no good.

It took just a few minutes before I heard a great "whack"—the result of a tree branch to his leg. I knew instantly how badly that hurt, as my siblings once did the very same to me.

As he limped with his little Army guys in hand, the other boys stood laughing and pointing their fingers at him. Oh, they can be so brutish at times, when it is that they forget someone is watching them.

As the little one limped his way to the porch, I could see the tears forming in his eyes—he was tightening his face, and trying his best to look down...desperate to keep those tears inside.  And as he slumped down and hid his face in his arms, I knew in that moment how much he was missing his Father.

 "I thought you were playing Army?" I asked.

"No," he pouted, "I don't like that game anymore."

As a Mommy who's hip to the little boy 'lingo', I knew what he really meant was, "I'm tired and my body is sore."

"Well, you know son—you've got to be just a little more prepared, and in order to be a good Army soldier" I explained.

And with that, I retreated back into my house—digging through some dusty old piles, to pull out that well worn Army duffel. Outside, I emptied the contents of that bag—knowing 'real soldier stuff' will make any little boy smile.

I suited him up in my old combat jacket, with an official Army belt pulling it close. And over that, and nearly pulling him down to the ground...my flack jacket and cammo Kevlar. But, finally at last the 'piece de resitance'—my son's old 50 cal semi-automatic Nerf gun.

And then, I walked him back to those boys, and explained this, the "brotherhood" of Army men. We went over honor, courage and integrity—and how we must never leave one of our 'boys' behind again.

Surprisingly, they listened—asking questions at the end, 'what was it like? and 'would you ever do it again?'

I smiled as I watched them looking over with awe, this, their littlest comrade. As I walked off, they were begging him to play—amazing what a little change can do for you.

I listened of course to make sure they were alright, but mostly to make sure the big boys were behaving. And as the moments passed, and the happy squeals grew—I knew this little soldier would be ok.

Several hours later, there was a knock to my door—outside was a very dirty...and slightly battle fatigued, little boy. He reached out his hand, with the biggest of smiles to his face, saying simply, "I want you to have it."

Inside his dirt caked and scrunched up hand, was a brand new, little green army soldier.

He wanted me to have it, his BEST Army guy....'just for a little while, but maybe not forever.'

It was the best present I believe I have ever received—as it reminds me that even a bullies heart can change.

p.s. - I let him keep his new Army gear...'just for a little while, but maybe not forever.'