I took the kids to a park that has a manmade lake with ducks. There’s a big sign that says “Don’t Feed The Ducks” but it doesn’t say anything about the pigeons so I let the kids throw some crushed rice cakes to the birds. Within seconds, a huge swarm of pigeons surrounded my son, which he thought was hilarious. It was pretty funny until a weird dude (by weird I mean a topless version of the “French model” in the State Farm commercials) walked by and spooked the birds. He bizarrely caught one of them as it flew by and held it upside down by its feet. Before I could register what was going on, he called my son over and said, “Boy, look at this bird.” My trusting 4-year-old walked up to the man to look at the bird as I yelled, “Don’t touch it!” For the first time in like forever he obeyed me and started chasing the birds that were still on the ground instead. The man dropped the bird and kept walking and that’s when I realized that my daughter was way too close to the lake’s edge. I screamed for her to get back and then I lost control all together, grabbed both kids by the hands and rushed them back to the car. I tried to explain that I wasn’t mad at them but scared that they were going to fall into the lake. My son is notorious for hugging and telling strangers that he loves them and teaching him “stranger danger” has been a challenge. I told him that when a stranger asks him to come over and look at something, he should never go unless he asks me first. I’m sure I scared and annoyed the crap out of both of them because nothing that was coming out of my mouth made sense, even to me.
The whole thing put me in a funk. Not just because of my No Nelling challenge but because I felt scattered and confused. I couldn’t make sense of what was going on before I reacted because it happened so fast. In reality, nothing really happened at all. The weird dude was just a man exercising, which probably explains why he wasn’t wearing a shirt. A flock of birds flew at him and he probably reacted on instinct when he grabbed the bird. He probably thought it would be a cool thing for a kid to look at up close. The bird, in all actuality, was probably not carrying an antibiotic-resistant strain of bird flu that would kill on contact. My daughter probably would’ve fallen into the lake so I may have gotten that part right.
It’s times like these when I wonder why God entrusted me with these kids. I wonder if I can trust any of my gut feelings or if my gut just farted. I believe that the mark of God’s covenant with us is the devotion and kindness that we show one another. It’s numero uno on the list. So, did I correctly judge that man because he had the creep factor or was he in need of my kindness because he exuded the creep factor? How do I teach my kids to love their neighbor when I’m afraid of most of my neighbors?