Tommy ran to his room, slammed the door and flew on his bed in a heap. He couldn’t get the pillow over his mouth fast enough to cover the beginning sounds of his heart wrenching sobs. From the kitchen, Mother heard all the commotion and followed her eight-year-old son’s voice to outside his bedroom door. Gently, she knocked and called to him.
“Tommy, are you okay?” she asked. His cries, muffled by the pillow, wouldn’t be hidden from her today. She turned the handle and opened the door to see her son tossed on the bed with his feet dangling over the edge. His face and head were held under the pillow, while his fists held it closely over his mouth, muting his cries. “What’s wrong, honey? Are you hurt?”
Tommy just wailed harder, and his pinking fists couldn’t pull the bedding tight enough anymore to muffle his sounds. Mother glided quickly over the miscellaneous toys, sat close to the headboard, and laid her gentle hand on the middle of her son’s back. He didn’t stop crying or even slow up, but he did nudge himself closer to her.
Five minutes or more dragged by while the little boy let go of all his emotions into the pillow. Mother waited patiently for him to find some words for what was happening in his heart.
The intensity of the tears slowed as Tommy repositioned himself on his mother’s lap, this time burying his cries on the sleeve of her top. His brown curly hair brushed against her cheek as she tenderly caressed the back of his neck.
“They are just so mean to me, Momma,” Tommy sputtered through his tears.
“What was it this time?” she asked, trying to hide her feelings of protection for her little boy suffering from the recurring torment of the neighborhood children.
“The same as always,” he said, this time allowing his anger to come through in his voice. He pulled away from his mother’s body so that he could see her eyes. The brownish-red scar on the right side of his face glowed even redder than usual when he cried.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” Mother tried to comfort her son. One more time, she reminded him that God would take care of him, in the same way that he had taken care of his little sister.
“You know, Tommy, that you saved your sister’s life when she tipped that pot of boiling water.” Again, Mother revisited the horrible scene in her mind. Little Tiffany was barely 16 months old but she loved to climb steps. When Tommy moved the step stool over to the stove to help mother make macaroni and cheese for lunch one day, Tiffany climbed the steps without anyone noticing. Within seconds she had reached over to the saucepan of boiling water and started tipping it. Tommy and Mother rushed to stop her, but just as Mother lifted the little girl away, the boiling water splashed up on Tommy’s cheek. It was terribly painful for the little boy, and the boiling water caused a deep, third-degree burn that blistered immediately. At the hospital, Tommy saw a specialist who said that he could help Tommy’s scar fade some, but it would take at least one or two surgeries. In the meantime, Tommy had to wait and children cruelly made fun of him, laughed at him and insulted him for looking so different.
“What did you say to the children this time, Tommy?” Mother asked him. The first day after the accident, one of the neighbor boys started to tease Tommy about his injury. Tommy said nothing, but came home to his bible and found a verse that helped him learn what to do when someone insulted him.
“Today, I decided to them that Jesus loves them, no matter what,” he answered her almost as boldly as he sounded when he answered the children. “They just laughed, but it was the truth.”
Mother gave Tommy a warm hug and dried his eyes with her handkerchief. For the past three months, her young son began and ended his day reciting the same bible verse from the first day. It was 1 Peter 3:9 – “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” A smile returned to his face as he recited the verse again to his mother.
“And, what a blessing you are, Tommy.”
Copyright © 2004 – Joanne Sampl