The Autumn sky threatened rain.  I parked my car in the school parking lot, choked down a burger, fries and iced tea. I needed sustenance before I went in to help with my second grader’s class “Math Explorations” assignment.  (The fact that I failed almost every math class I’ve ever been in, didn’t come up on the background check. Whew. )

As I sat in the car, I contemplated the wisdom of entering a room of 24 rabid second graders, smelling like french fries. (I envisioned a mob scene with back packs instead of pitchforks.)

I knew they were rabid because I’d just witnessed them filing out the door for lunch recess. They looked like they’d dumped the rest of their Halloween candy into their lunch boxes, before mom got a chance to toss it.  The term: JACKED UP could describe the behavior. Let’s just say I know Where the Wild Things Are.  They are at my son’s school. ( he fits in fine.) I turned on some classical music and to “center myself”. Whatever that means.

[Bored by the music and by my sad attempt at centering-] I looked up to notice a rubber wheeled, off- road style wheel chair near the door.  In it, sat a radical little, helmet wearing, wild dude. He had pirate stickers all over his helmet and a “born to be wild” bumper sticker on his wheel chair. (Or I made that up, but you get the picture.) He was alternately, throwing sticks and bouncing a ball.

Alone.

My heart went out to him.  All those rabidly fun kids, ran right  past him to go play.   Tears filled my eyes.  I’ve been left out and alone. Not just as a child, but as an adult.  I hate it.

Right about the time I was considering risking being “the creepy woman” who wandered onto the playground and played ball with the wheel-chair kid.  A hoodie clad, second or third grade fellow ball bouncer, ran over to him.

The boy in the wheel chair cautiously tossed him the ball, as a test of trust. If the ball was tossed back, all was well, if it was chucked at him or snatched away, it was just another episode of playground trauma.

I held my breath. The boy bounced it back. after a few tentative bounces, they moved on to throwing sticks for distance and height. (They both should have been wearing helmets, they took a few sticks to the head. Come to think of it, they will probably get in trouble for that,  if they get caught.) A few more kids came over to join in the fun. They broadened the game. (Or trouble making, depending on which side of the school fence you’re on, I suppose.)

I smiled. And let out the breath I’d held in fear. I experienced inclusion. No teasing or targeting. No excluding. It was connection and compassion. There was care for the one who was left out. Compassion on the marginalized. Sounds like the gospel to me.

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

I want to be that kid hoodie wearing ball bouncing kid, when I grow up.  I want to be the one who reaches out and includes, instead of excluding the different.  I want to have compassion that moves me to action. I want to make that kind of difference, every day.

What about you?

Dear Lord- I pray you’d bless those boys I saw on the playground today. I pray that you’d give me and all who read, the courage to reach out and to take the risk of bouncing the ball. Let us catch your compassion and live it out on the playground of our lives- I love you Lord- Amen