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Getting Out of Line

Every year, the school my children attend holds a festival to celebrate the holidays. There’s always a ton of great food, games and rides for the kids. This year, responding to a great suggestion from one of the parents, the school decided to reach out to two local homeless shelters and invite some less-fortunate families in our community to join in the fun; with all of the ride tickets and food they wanted at no cost to them. About fifty or so men, women and children from the shelters showed up and boy, did they seem to have a wonderful time.

At around 8:50PM, ten minutes before the rides were to shut down, I found my ten year-old son Kevin in line at a bungee ride with three of his friends. Then the man overseeing the attraction began counting heads in line: “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty. Sorry, kids…” he said, looking at the twelve or so children behind the twentieth head tapped, “…we only have time to allow these first twenty to ride, then we’re shuttin’ ‘er down”. Kevin was the twentieth, right behind his three friends, and I could see him quietly mouth his joy…”Yesssss!” he whispered to himself, as he and his buddies exchanged high-fives and wide smiles.

For numbers twenty-one through thirty-two though – the children in line who weren’t tapped to ride – there was no celebration, just tears and many long faces. That’s when I happened to notice that all of the kids who were going to miss the ride had red paper wristbands. They were our guests from the neighborhood, many of whom had most likely never even seen this bungee ride before, let alone gone on it, as many of the school’s students in line had done each year. “Wow…” I thought to myself, “…this is not good.” So I stood and watched. I watched as the adult chaperone who was escorting the children from the local shelter asked the attendant if he could make an exception. And I watched as he (and not too politely) said “No”. Then, I watched something beautiful happen.

As Kevin and his friends talked about how fun the ride was going to be and how lucky they were to make the cut, I watched Kevin turn towards the children that had been in line behind him as they walked away with their heads hung low. There he was – the last boy standing, the lucky one – and he was going to enjoy the only ride he talked about for a week leading up to the fair. Then, with no hesitation, that last boy standing got out of line and walked over to one of the children walking away. “Hey, come on back”, Kevin said; “…there’s space for you!” Kevin’s friends were yelling at him: “Kevin, wait! Where are you going?!” And Kevin walked back the twenty feet or so and all of the twelve shelter kids were beaming right behind him. “Guys…”, Kevin said quietly, “…we need to get out of line and let casino en ligne quebec them go. We’ve gone on this thing a thousand times. Come on.”

Two of Kevin’s three friends stepped aside. One stayed in line (he won’t be coming over to our house anytime soon) and then the sixteen kids in front of them saw what has happening. So did their parents who were watching with me. One at a time the parents called their children out of the line; some leaving without even being asked. One at a time their place in line was taken by one of our guests at the fair. Within about a minute, all twelve children who would have otherwise missed the bungee ride were in line, exchanging high fives and wide smiles. And the students who gave up their spots…some were walking away with their heads hung low.

But not Kevin.

Kevin came over to me and said “Dad, let’s go get something to drink, I’m dying of thirst.” And he ran off with his buddy Justin to the drink stand. I just stood there. Utterly amazed. Incredibly moved. Fighting back tears. As I followed Kevin I shook hands with a few of the Dads that had been standing there with me and one of them said, “Dave, Kevin did that.” “I know…”, I said, “…I know.” I was speechless.

I wasn’t shocked though. Kevin (and I say this as humbly and as objectively as I possibly can) is a very kind, compassionate soul. That he would make the sacrifice – and lead others to follow his decision – did not surprise me. I’d seen him lead before, on the baseball field and in our neighborhood. What was so moving to me was not just what he, his friends and other students and families did. What moved me was how he did it. No fanfare. No hesitation. No glory-seeking. No sulking. Not even a word about it…just a run to the drink stand. Man…I wish I could be more like my son.

Later on, when we all got in the car together and headed home, I turned to Kevin in the backseat as he glanced out the window at the ferris wheel. “Kev, I’m so proud of you. You got out of line for the kids from the shelter and let them go on the bungee ride. I love you so much right now and I want you to know that you did a great thing tonight.” “Thanks Dad. They were from one of the shelters you think?”, Kevin replied quizzically. “Well sure, buddy. Didn’t you see their wrist bands?” I asked. “Nope.  They just looked upset and I didn’t want them to be sad. Plus…I’ve gone on that ride a thousand times.”

He didn’t even know. I REALLY wish I was more like Kevin.

So…are you in line right now? Is there an opportunity for you to step aside, to lead, to allow someone else to have the glory?

Let’s look for the opportunity to share some joy – during the holiday season and year-round.

Let’s get out of line.