The Naval Air Station here in Meridian hosts a Freedom Fest every Fourth of July. This year’s was hot but great. Lots of bounce houses, live music, cheap beer, cheap food and free non-alcoholic beverages. The fireworks were amazing. They were close and huge. They lit up the sky and to see them reflected in each of my sons’ eyes was just amazing. We arrived early so my boys would have time to make the rounds of the all the festivities. This year they added a zip line that was at least two stories off the ground.
My oldest son isn’t crazy about heights. He also isn’t crazy about the fact that there is something out there that makes him uneasy. To add salt to the wound, his younger brother doesn’t happen to share this uneasiness about heights. He asked permission to do the zip line with his friend. A little while later, he was back, eyes red and sour mood. ”I couldn’t do it,” he said. At first I thought maybe it was a height or weight thing, or maybe he was too young? ”No, the guy said you had to hold onto the bars and not to let go or you could get hurt. My hands were soooo sweaty I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold on.” I told him to have a seat, get something cool to drink and then go with his friend to do the other games. When his friend returned, Kevin’s mood had gone from sour to unconsolable. I told his friend to go on without him and maybe he’d catch up later. After about 10 minutes, my reserve of patience was gone.
“Look, Kevin…LOOK around. There’s a game station, a rock climbing wall, several bounce house mazes and lots of other things to do. You’re missing it. You made a decision not to do the zip line. That is ok. Don’t let it spoil your night because there is a lot of time left. You can spend it sitting in a lawn chair or, you can spend it with your friends having fun.” Ten minutes later after sitting in silence and taking in all the laughter, and music and feeling the high energy, he did get up and rejoin his friend.
A few weeks later we took the family to a water park. I let my two older boys go stand in line for a water ride that shoots you down a big dark tube, spits you up a big wall, only to let you come back down backwards before coming to a stop. A little while later there was Kevin, “Mom, you have to go with Ryan. We can’t go together. We don’t weigh enough. You have to weigh 140 lbs together and we don’t.” I left Kevin, made my way up the line to find my middle son. Ryan and I did the ride. The whole time I was beaming with pride. My older son had actually given up his spot willingly for his brother, no tears, no fights…nothing. I AM A GREAT MOM!!!! It was a mountain top moment for me. But just like Moses, when I came down the mountain, I found my older son, eyes red and sour mood. “Now, I can’t go.” I told Kevin we could go and get in line. I would do the ride again. ”No, it will take too long. I don’t want to wait. It’s not fair that Ryan got to do it.” This time I didn’t have any patience in my reserves.
While this had nothing to do with heights, I couldn’t help but see a pattern. ”Kevin, again YOU are making a decision not to do the ride. We can go and do it. If you don’t want to that is fine. I am so proud of you. You did a very nice and selfless thing by giving up your spot so I could go with Ryan first. But, nothing is stopping you from doing the slide right now. LOOK at all the people around us. They are smiling and laughing and having fun. We have a lot of time left here and just like the Freedom Fest, it would be a shame if you waste it because of one ride. What would you like to do?” ”Nothing,” was his reply. So he followed me back to where my youngest was playing with my husband, upset and determined to keep his sour mood.
I thought about approaching him again. I realized I wasn’t the one who had to do the work. I just had to let nature take its course. Then, just like the Freedom Fest, I watched as he fought a battle within. Finally, he allowed all the water, smiles and laughter pull him out from his bad mood. He enjoyed the rest of the night. That is how Joy works. Mother Teresa said, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.” The enemy of sour moods, disappointments and fears has no strength to stand up to joy. It was nice to see Joy do what Joy does best, WIN. It is amazing to watch as Joy pulls someone off their own battlefield. That is why Mother Teresa also said, “Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy.”