This past Friday night I had an incredible time with my son Jeremy’s first grade class. We were at a First Grade Family Pizza Party. My wife Cyndi was out of town, visiting her mom and sister, my daughter was at a church activity, and my oldest son was at a friend’s home. So, it was just Jeremy, Zachary, Dad, and about 100 other people in the gym at Calvin Christian School.
Cyndi is one of the Room Moms in Jeremy’s class. The room moms were in charge of the party, and since Cyndi couldn’t be there, I was a room dad. Our job was to set up tables, decorate the room, and make sure that everyone was having a good time.
Midway through the party, I noticed that all of the kids were on one side of the gym looking a little bit bored. They had been playing basketball on a regulation sized basket. Keep in mind, these are first graders. They could have shot the ball at that basket all night long, and it wasn’t going to go in. So, now, some of the kids thought they’d throw the balls at each other. Keep in mind, these are basketballs. Had it been dodgeballs, this could have been fun, but now kids were getting angry at each other. Tears were flowing down faces, but most of the parents were too busy to notice. Since I was without my spouse, I thought I’d go over and try to do an organized game with the kids.
The only game I could think of on the spare of the moment, considering the amount of kids that were present, was the game 500. Now, to the uninitiated in the blogosphere, the object of the game 500 is to do whatever it takes to get the ball that is thrown. The person throwing the ball yells out a certain number of points that each ball thrown is worth. The first person to catch 500 points worth of balls wins.
When I was in school, winning the game was prize enough. Why? Because it meant that you were the best. Of all of the other people catching balls that day on the playground, you were the best of the best.
Times have changed.
The children in that gym would have nothing to do with this game unless there was a prize. I had no prizes with me. So, I opened my wallet. I quickly defused the enthusiasm that the students had that they would be earning money for winning this game, when I announced that I was a pastor, and that I have no idea what money looks like. I showed them my empty wallet to prove it.
“But,” I announced, “I do have THIS!”
I’m pretty sure that some kind of cool announcement music came over the school PA system at this point. It sounded like a heavenly anthem, “WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH.”
“This my friends is a Qdoba Mexican Restaurant lunch punch card.” (It was a card that requires 10 punches for a free lunch. Two of the punches had been punched in the past year.)
You would have thought that I had just pulled out of my wallet some serious cash. Every kid in the room wanted that card.
“100!” I shouted, and then threw the ball high in the air. A collision of bodies ensued in front of me.
A tall, lanky kid came out of the spontaneous mosh pit with a grin across his face, revealing that his two front teeth were missing.
“100!” I yelled again. The ball went in the air, and now a small little girl came out of the pile of bodies with ball in hand.
The scene replayed itself a dozen times or so before that tall, lanky, tooth challenged kid emerged victorious. To the victor went the spoils. I handed over my Qdoba card with 20% of the card punched, and the kids were feverish with anticipation over what the next prize that I would hand away would be.
By the time the night was through the kids had earned three restaurant cards similar to the Qdoba card, an expired Happenings card, a pen from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sacremento, and an expired membership card to a video game store.
It’s pretty amazing that children would compete with such intensity for such insignifcant prizes.
If the question for these kids had been, “What would it take to get you to participate with all of your strength in a game of 500?” The answer would have been some worthless prizes.
If the question, “What would it take to allow Jesus Chrsit to have control of our lives?” was given to us, I wonder how we would answer.
It seems to me that so many of us, myself included, are pursuing things in life that when it is all said and done, are as insignicant as the worthless items from my wallet that those first grade kids played their hearts out for. The wisest man to ever live was King Solomon. Despite his wisdom, Solomon made some horrible choices. At the end of his life, he was full of remorse for those choices. Writing once again from a place of wisdom Solomon wrote,
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”