They charged across the flat ground with their swords raised high above their heads. As they made their way towards their target they shouted with all of their might.

The astronaut turned to them and shouted, “Stop!” Behind him stood a small boy who was a full head shorter than the rest of them.

The roving band of marauders circled around the the small boy and the astronaut. They continued their shouts and taunts. The astronaut shielded the little boy and told the wild gang to back off.

I watched this drama unfold from behind my storm door. At first I was sure it was simply friendly play. My son had dragged all of his play swords from his toy basket just a little while before so he and the neighborhood boys could play. He had also decided that he wanted to be an astronaut while everyone else was playing at knights and castles. The little boy he was defending had neither sword nor blaster with which to defend himself.

After a moment I realized that my son was genuinely concerned that the other boys were being mean to this other child who was considerably smaller than the rest of them. After taking a closer look and listen, I realized he was correct. They’d gone from playing to being unnecessarily mean.

I popped my head out the door and gave them my best grumpy old man impression, “If you boys don’t stop I’m going to bring the toys back in and send all of you home.”

“Dad! They’re being mean to him!” my son shouted back, still shielding the little boy.

“I know they are. If they don’t stop they’re going to get into some real trouble,” I threatened. I didn’t know if they’d actually get in any trouble other than not being welcome on my lawn anymore, but I was certainly ready to do that much. With that the boys calmed down, shuffled their feet, and got back to the business of playing instead of harassing.

When it was time to come in for the evening, I stepped back outside and walked down to where the 6 of them were playing in the street. I informed John it was time to come home and as we began walking back to the house he stopped me and asked me to wait on him for a moment. He went back to the smallest boy and gave him a hug and patted him on the head. I couldn’t clearly make out what was said between the two of them, but it was clear my child was making sure the other was ok to be left alone with the others.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of my son for what I saw from him this evening. The empathy and courage that he displayed, the care and concern that he showed – all of it humbled me. It’s not every 6 year old that will do what he did.

As we began walking back to the house, he began speaking to me, “Dad, did you see me give him a hug?”
“Yes I did.”
“I was just making sure he was ok. He’s my friend and that’s what friends do.”

God give me a heart like this child. Give me the courage to stand without a crowd and do what is right even if it means fighting against overwhelming odds. Give me the compassion to realize that the need to care for others doesn’t end just because the angry mob is gone. Help me to love not only in word but in deed.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4