No Hitting!

17 09 2014

Recent headlines from the NFL have not shone a favorable light on some men who make a living hitting people. Lining up with pads and helmets, NFL football is a violent sport grown men play.

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy are three of the men who don pads and helmets on Sunday afternoon, who have been charged with abuse. Rice and Hardy are convicted of abuse on a female. Adrian Peterson  has been charged with child abuse.

People defending and chastising Mr. Peterson have come forth. He has admitted his excessive force injured his son, said he did not mean to hurt him and pledged to find other more appropriate means of punishment.

Let’s turn the clock back. The time was the early 1950’s. Corporal punishment was the order of the day in schools. Good Southern Christian parents were told via the King James Version of the Bible, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:24

Rob playing web

Robby Rollins est. 3 years old

On this Saturday a three year old, soon-to-be four was playing outside. He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Barefoot and free he enjoyed the beauty of a summer morning as only a child can.

A call came from the backdoor to come in. It was time to go with his father for a haircut, a bi-weekly ritual which he enjoyed because it meant being a ‘ big boy’.

Time outdoors, although brief, was all that was needed to get dirty. This made his mother mad. In her rage she grabbed him by the arm and took a ‘hickory’ and whipped him. The exposed calves of the boy took the brunt of the punishment. The rod was not spared. The boy was not spoiled.

Angry emotions, supple legs and a hickory stick do not mix well. Cuts into tender flesh brought blood to mark each lash. Like most who cross the line in anger, remorse soon set in. Once the tears were dried, clothes changed, temper cooled, the mother said to her husband, ” I cut the blood out of that boy. Ain’t that a shame?”

Then that boy went to get the haircut. The barber asked, “how are you”, as he put him on the board across the barber shop chair arms,. The unexpected response came as the child lifted up his long pants that hid his wounds and said, ” My Mama cut the blood out of my legs, ain’t that a shame?”

You might ask, why tell that story? I wondered the same thing as it was retold at family gatherings for over 50 years, like a joke that all thought was funny, save one.

It was told as a reminder of how difficult that boy was. It bore witness to how exasperated a parent can get. It was a testimony to fidelity to scripture by loving parents who would not spare a rod or spoil a child.

So, why tell it now? So that a three, soon-to-be four year old child playing blissfully in the late summer of 2014 and the many summers after, will have a voice. So parents might hear and look for a way to guide without abusing the tender body or spirit of a child.

I have long made my peace with that day and the similar days that followed. The scars have healed. Well, for the most part.

I have come to understand how she could only use the tools she had. I wish others might have been available.

I am confident the look coming from those dark eyes was anger. Yet, I do not doubt she loved me.

As a parent, I know I failed more often than I wanted. That is a story for another day. Perhaps it was with that acknowledgement that I found the words of Jesus helpful,
” Father forgive… they/she/he don’t know what is being done (my paraphrase).

So, if you still feeling the sting of anger from an adult cling to that verse like a life raft in hurricane, even if you suspect they did know. I pray now they know better.

If you are looking for a Biblical scripture to hold onto when trying to guide a young mind and spirit, how about  this one from Mark 10:14, ” But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God”.