I’ll change his name. No one wants this part of their life shared in public.
He’s Bo today. My son and I saw him in Walmart while we shopped for party supplies. He was stuffed into the back of a shopping carriage along with his treasure: a brand new, very large toy. Bo must have been about eight years old. A little old for a free ride, but hey! Who’s judging? Up in front sat Bo’s younger sister with her new toy. And pushing the carriage…Dad. None of this is very interesting. Kids are given new toys all the time in this part of the world. Dads push carriages. Big whoop.
So my son and I are standing at the self-checkout. I’m waiting (im)patiently for him to pay for his tiny hand sanitizer. He wants to pay cash. Of course. He digs deep in his wallet for correct change, carefully counting each cent. I should be very proud. Math in action.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bo. His ferry has arrived at the self-checkout, and the treasure is almost his. Very large toy for no apparent occasion, but hey! Who’s judging?
Still counting those cents… Ten. Eleven… Sigh.
I notice how extremely pale Bo’s face is. Round and pale. Pale and round. Seriously, are we still counting? Loose change scatters across the laser box. I’m sure there’s a real word for that beepy thing that eyeballs what you’re buying and charges you for it. Today, it’s LASER BOX.
Little judgy thoughts flit through my mind as I hear a loud whine begin behind me. Ugh. Now a temper tantrum, too. Usually children get this kind of noise over with IN the toy section. And then it happens.
“Not yet, Bo! Don’t do it yet!”
Don’t do what? Bo?
A carriage flies by. Dad is suddenly racing the Indy 500, saying things like “Wait just a minute, Bo! Hold on, Bo! Not YET…!!!”
Pennies. Dimes. Nickels. Machines that don’t know how to count. A pale heat begins to rise in my cheeks. What is Bo not supposed to do yet? He’s a little old for potty training, but who’s judging, right? I AM!
I lean around the end of our checkout station to see what’s going on. My training in manners tells me not to gawk. Sorry, Mom. I had to know. They’ve stopped in front of the restroom. Whew! Maybe he made it.
No, he did not. Bo did not make it. Bo did it. He did it on the carriage. He did it on the floor. I stand on my tiptoes to get an aerial view.
They’re wiping the carriage with sanitizing wipes. They’re setting up orange cones. An employee is trying to avoid Bo’s hands as he reaches for her.
Confession time. I have, despite the Lord’s persistent protection of me and family, developed an aversion to vomit beyond a reasonable level. May I demonstrate?
I think of how close they were to us in line. I think of how pale Bo was. Of course! I think of how close they flew behind us on their way to the drop zone. I think of what could be on the floor behind us. Was there a prior incident in the store? Should I leave our shoes on the front porch? Bleach our floors? I’d love to say I didn’t…
The laser box and the computer screen are not on speaking terms with one another. They refuse to process my son’s innocent desire for Mandalorian hand sanitizer. And the pale heat that radiated up from the depths of my unchecked fear now explodes into madness.
My words rush out. “Mommy will pay, and you can pay me back at home.” I scoop up his loose change and give it back to him. I shove my card in the chip slot and wait an eternity. To do what? To avoid what?! As my son so rightly told me later, “He was fifty feet away from us! Ten feet away from us in line!”
Something catches my eye. A round, pale face. He’s back! Bo is right behind us! Sitting in that same carriage!
*freeze the frame, insert Jesus at the checkout in my place*
(To my son) Dude, I’m sorry I took all your change back. Not sure what came over me. Go ahead and count it out again.
(To Bo) Hey, buddy, are you feeling better?
Bo nods, surprised by this man’s cheerful, caring tone.
(To Bo’s Dad) You must have been doing 80, 90mph around that corner, man! Nice work.
Jesus walks over and gives Bo a high five. Bo stands up in the carriage.
(To Bo) It’s not easy feeling queasy. I know.
Bo laughs and gives Jesus a hug.
(To Bo’s Dad) Don’t worry about it. I wiped away all the germs and then some.
Walks backs to my son and waits for the Laser Box to do its thing. They walk out together, cracking jokes and –
Wait a minute.
If my son was hanging out with JESUS, the Son of God, would he need hand sanitizer? Would there be any possibility of getting sick?
Well, Jesus was fully God and fully man (Philippians 2:6-7). “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
I can imagine a true-blue human man getting sick and being tempted by fearful thoughts of getting sick again. What is the temptation? To fear the nasty sickness more than fearing God and doing His will. And I can imagine worse things than getting physically sick… How about spending life in a self-imposed bubble that tightens more and more until you’re trapped in the shrink wrap of your own selfishness?
Maybe compassion and bravery go hand in hand. They definitely take practice. Not once did it occur to me to pray for the boy in his suffering, or to smile at him. So I am practicing. Please, all of you strong-hearted Good Samaritans, have mercy in your hearts for those of us who take baby steps toward compassionate responses. Every time something like this comes up, the Lord shows me my dirt and sanitizes my heart a little more.