June 2007 Column Winner
We have met the enemy, it is 4 years old
By Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle
It's not often one stands face to face with a force so terrible it has been known to reduce grown men to tears.
I did, and lived to tell about it.
It was Monday when I found myself confronted by one of the most powerful, most fearsome entities on earth - a room full of 4-year-olds. It was vacation Bible school, that summer ritual of games, crafts and stories that annually gives children a taste of both the Gospel and Rice Krispies treats.
It must have been a moment of temporary madness that led me to volunteer for VBS. It would be easy, the director told me. All I had to do was tell a story.
Heck, I tell stories for a living, how hard could that be?
But then I was standing in a room decorated in a beach motif, watching the children file in. And I came to the gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing realization I had not one good clue what I was doing. I thought about running, but they were between me and the door.
The story was familiar, of Jesus telling Simon Peter to take his boat to deep water and cast his fishing nets over the side, even though the crew had just spent the night fishing with no success.
So the kids and I simulated rowing, fishing and even the sea, while I told of nets miraculously overflowing with fish and the subsequent call to Simon Peter and his crew to become "fishers of men."
"Have you ever gone fishing?" I asked the first- and second-grade group. Hands went up and cries of "I have," filled the room, when one little boy said, "I got kicked by a horse once."
All righty then.
The 5-year-olds were next, and they were wiggly and vocal, but attentive. I was beginning to think this might be a breeze. Then came the 4-year-olds and my life flashed before my eyes.
Four-year-olds don't sit. Instead they bounce, wiggle and prance. And they talk, all at once, as loudly as they can.
"What kind of fish would you like to be?" I asked. Bad mistake.
First they all wanted to be various kinds of sharks. Then one little girl said she wanted to be an angel fish and all agreed, even the prior shark lovers.
Four-year-olds want to be seen and heard. One little girl, half of a set of twins clad in matching bright pink T-shirts, clamped her hands over her ears to shut out the din and walked right up to me, yelling in her loudest outside voice "I want to tell you!" So she told me, whatever it was, I couldn't hear her for my knees knocking.
Four-year-olds move like lightning. In a split second, before I could react, one little boy was yanking on a towel hanging at the front of the room and secured on one end by a glass bowl filled with pens and pencils. The towel fell, as did the glass bowl, which immediately shattered into a gazillion pieces.
"What the $%&@!+@!% are you doing?" My mind screamed, but the words came out sounding more like "It's OK, everybody stay back, don't touch anything."
The kids stayed out of the glass, which was cleaned up quickly, and nobody got hurt, so disaster was narrowly averted - for the moment.
I went back to my story, only to have another crisis arise.
"I have to go potty," said one, sparking an apparent epidemic of need for immediate elimination. I quickly rushed through the end of the story, and they bounded out, all but one little girl who had fallen fast asleep in the back of the room. I was a huge hit.
I couldn't blame her. I was exhausted, and still had one group to go. By the end of the morning I walked out of the church with newfound respect for parents of small children, and perhaps some insight as to what Daniel felt upon walking out of the lion's den.
But then again, that was only lions.
Posted on Fri, June 15, 2007