The one thing that annoys me about our elementary school is that you don’t find out who your new teacher is until Meet the Teacher day less than a week before school actually starts. Parents and kiddos wait patiently (or not) outside locked doors and when the doors finally open, there is a mad rush to find out if you got the teacher you wanted. Staff members wait at each door with a list and one by one they find your name and let you know who your new teacher is. It’s very poor planning and really stressful for people like me who like to know what to expect for as long as possible to prepare for a new phase of life.
This year, the boys and I got to get in the school early to see a bus safety presentation with a bunch of other new kindergarteners. We walked through the school looking for any signs in the hallway with Isaac’s or Asher’s name outside any teacher’s door, but the teachers were obviously not yet prepared by the time we got to the school. So we headed on to the cafeteria where we met some familiar faces. Many of Isaac’s friends have little siblings Asher’s age so we already knew some of the incoming kindergarteners and their siblings that were attending this meeting.
The kids were introduced to a remote controlled bus who taught them all about bus safety and then they were invited to take a ride on a real bus around the neighborhood. Isaac’s friends were getting in line to ride the bus, and since I knew there would be plenty of seats, I told Isaac to go ahead and ride along.
When the kids got back, the kindergarteners were invited to eat a cookie and have some juice at a few tables set up around the room. The teachers told us the cookies were only for the new kindergarteners but there was more than enough for all the siblings in the room. Isaac waited patiently, and then watched as all of his older friends grabbed a cookie and sat next to their younger siblings. He asked me if he could have a cookie and I told him it was fine with me if a teacher would allow him. So Isaac asked the assistant principal standing nearby if he could also have a cookie and juice. She looked and him and shook her head and told him it was only for kindergarteners.
Isaac politely came back to me and waited awkwardly as every child in the room finished their cookies and wiped their crumby faces. Fifteen or more cookies remained untouched in the middle of the tables and I watched with growing anger as the teachers ignored my polite boy and talked amongst themselves.
I think Isaac and I both were waiting for a staff member to see that there were more than enough cookies for him to have one, but no one noticed. I watched as some of Isaac’s old classmates took a second cookie and tried to contain myself.
Isaac never asked again and honestly didn’t seem overly bothered that he was the only child excluded from the party. We were eventually dismissed to find our classrooms and meet our new teachers.
I walked out of that cafeteria knowing in the back of my mind that this was the first of many rejections my son may receive in his life. It’s a silly example, who cares about a cookie? But the lesson I was reminded of here is that the good guys don’t always win. In real life, you don’t always get what you want by doing the right thing.
We met our new teachers and they seemed nice enough. But on our way out the door as we passed the cafeteria and tables of lonely, delicious cookies one last time I really had to fight the urge to tell my boy to just take what he wanted. He deserved a cookie and I guarantee that the others were just going to be thrown away within the next hour.
Isaac, I am so sorry to tell you that if you continue down the path of politeness; if you continue to do the right thing, you will often stand alone in a room full of people. You may again, be left out of the fun. Selfish people usually end up getting what they want. Someday, you’re going to like a girl and I hate to tell you, but most girls like the bad guys. You will find rejection, humiliation, and defeat throughout your life.
I am also sad to say that this is what I want for you. It breaks my heart that what I’ve told you is the truth, but I want you to always do the right thing. I don’t want you to be selfish. I don’t want you to do what it takes to get what you want. I want you always to be known as a GOOD man. I want you to be polite and to make wise decisions and to follow the path that Jesus laid out for us. I don’t want you to get walked all over. I do want you to stand up and be strong. And though you may not get what you want, God promises to give you what you need. Though you may miss out on some fun, there can be joy in every circumstance. Though you may not get every girl, you will find a girl who wants you for who you are and she will be worth far more than rubies.
God, you never guarantee happiness for those you love, but I do pray for happiness for my boys. You never promised riches and wealth, but I do pray blessings on my boys and I pray good things for them. But more than popularity, I pray for good quality friends. More than happiness, I pray that they can find joy in good times and in bad. More than earthly treasures, I pray that my boys leave a lasting impression on everyone they meet. Though they may stand alone (and I pray they have the strength to stand alone) I pray that everyone else in the room sees the height of their character. May they be strong and wise, and polite and caring. God, you never promised protection from rejection or humiliation, but you do promise comfort when they come. “In this world you will have troubles…” My joy comes from knowing that this world is just a blip in the vast eternity of life. My joy comes from knowing that this world is backwards from how you’ve created your followers to behave. May we have the wisdom to follow in your son’s footsteps whatever trials we may face. And please give us all the strength to relinquish the cookies and do the right thing.