I was finally about to sink my teeth into some delicious leftovers right at the end of lunch recess when the intercom blared, “Mr. Bakker, please call the office!”
So much for sinking teeth into food, as a sinking feeling fell on me. I knew what was coming.
Mr. Van Eerden was away at a meeting and Mrs. Riemer was getting ready for an afternoon of teaching, which meant that I, by default, was the one responsible for any/all requests for admin help. Sigh.
I abandoned the food, walked 30 feet to the main office and noticed two boys sitting on, ironically, the Buddy Bench (“Let’s call them Thing One and Thing Two.” No, just kidding! Just my inside voice talking). Let’s call them Fred and George. Fred and George had been involved in an altercation on the playground leaving both of them red-faced, teary-eyed and shaking. They were waiting for me to deal with it.
You do the crime, you do the time.
That’s how it was when I went to school, and I sincerely believe I am better for having punishment dealt out to me. I once was suspended from school for a day when I attended ACS and I deserved it — but that’s another story. At this point, I was feeling like the sheriff who needed to right the wrongs and administer consequences to the naughty boys.
Then I heard a small voice, reminding me to be,“quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Deep breath. Everyone to the office. Share what happened.
Fred didn’t like a call that George made during their game. In frustration, Fred pushed George, who responded with a few swings of fists to Fred’s face. Bystanders who didn’t just stand by, thankfully, sought help from the playground supervision, who then broke up the fight and brought Fred and George to the Buddy Bench (which will soon have a new location in a beautiful location on our playground, instead of in an ironic location by the office).
Enter the Sheriff
That’s my job. I’m ready to mete out penalties on both boys so they will learn their lessons and be better examples on the playground from now on.
“George, I’m sorry for doing what I did,” Fred broke into my calculations, “I let my frustration get the better of me, and I hope you’ll forgive me.”
-What? You guys are in trouble and I’m disciplining you!
“I forgive you,” George replied, “and I hope you’ll forgive me for hitting you back. I have a tough time managing my anger, and I wish I could stop acting that way. I wonder why God made me this way. I should just be suspended for fighting.”
-Wait—these Intermediate boys are talking through the issue without my help! Hmmm…
“No,” responded Fred, “You shouldn’t be suspended for a mistake—we all get angry sometimes and God has a purpose for all of us, even if you don’t know it. And Jesus loves you no matter what.”
-Hang on! Shouldn’t these guys be mad and ready to get the other guy in trouble? Now they are ministering to each other!
“I know you’re right, Fred, but I just have a tough time believing that to be true when I can be so bad,” mused George.
-I’m gonna keep quiet for a little longer.
Fred said, “We all can be bad, but now that I know you have the same struggle as me, we understand each other better.”
-This is incredible!
“Yeah, and maybe, we can even still play together, if I promise not to lose my temper again.”
That’s what I thought, too.
It sounds great when students, following the prompting of the Spirit, can reconcile incredible differences and heal broken relationships. Fred and George, instead of furthering fisticuffs, gave fist pumps to each other and may even develop a friendship.
Fascinating, isn’t it, how “Nurturing Hearts” can be so much better than “Sheriffing Hearts?”