Christmas Courage

A few weekends ago, our church had the Sunday school classes come up to the altar to deliver presents for charity. Each class filed up to the altar, dropped off their presents and filed out again. Unfortunately, during this process the line with our three year old in it crossed the line of another class.

The little guy was last in line and he accidentally followed the wrong line. By the time he had realized his mistake, his class was gone. He looked around, but didn’t see anyone he knew. The congregation was standing, with crowds of teachers and kids in the back. The way the windows in our church are positioned, the altar is bathed in sunlight, making it very easy to see. If you’re standing there and looking out, however, it’s hard to see anything other than a dark crowd of people.

I was in the back of the church – in the vestibule. I had been trying to position myself to get good pictures when he came walking out. Unfortunately, even though I could see what had happened to my son, I couldn’t get there to help him. I was caught up in crowds of kids, teachers, and other parents. My wife was in the pews on the other side of the church, and I couldn’t see her to get her attention.

The little guy did great.  Even though he was alone by the altar, surrounded by hundreds of people he didn’t recognize, he didn’t panic. He stood there without crying and looked carefully out at the audience for someone he knew. I kept my eyes on him as I maneuvered through the crowd. His eyes were wide and his teeth were clenched, but otherwise he was fine. He had his thumb-sucking hand held over his eyes to shade them from the light streaming in through the windows. His other hand was pointing aimlessly at people.

I moved as politely as I could through the crowd, waving to try to get his attention. Suddenly, I saw his chin begin to tremble. The hand that had been shading his eyes was now having its thumb sucked. He was really scared.

My politeness left me. Most of the kids were behind me at this point, anyway. I stopped maneuvering through the adults and simply started to run, shoving people out of the way as necessary.

My bullrush through the crowd of innocent churchgoers didn’t last very long, thank goodness. Before I made it even halfway there, I saw my wife swoop in and rescue the little guy. She had spotted his predicament from her pew and had had less of a crowd to maneuver through.

I gave a quick apology to the people behind me and hurried to catch them. His teacher joined us almost immediately, in a panic. She hadn’t seen what had happened, hadn’t realized he was missing until the rest of his class had reached the vestibule.

The little guy nestled into his mom’s shoulder, sucking his thumb. He had a few tears, but not many.

If that’s not a case of Christmas Courage, I don’t know what is.

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