Small victories = steps towards manhood



One boy in my tent, Jeremie, is what I’d call the runt of the litter.  He just turned 9 a couple of days ago, but he looks and in some ways acts much like he’s about 6.  He keeps mostly to himself, loves to chase insects, and speaks very quietly.  I’ve engaged him a few times in some games, and I think the attention has won me a special place in his estimation.  He now will walk along with me and talk non-stop in a voice too quiet for me to understand, even if I could comprehend the language.  I don’t think he even cares so much if I can understand.  He just likes having someone to talk to, rattling off long stories about his dog or the way fish breathe underwater.

Yesterday we went to a large community swimming pool for the afternoon.  It was a perfect day for it, scorching hot and muggy.  The complex had several pools and a pretty decent waterslide.  Partway through the day, I noticed that Jeremie hadn’t gone on the slide.  He couldn’t swim, and he was scared to ride the slide.  I talked to him for a bit and convinced him that it would be fine if he rode the slide with me.  After some coaxing I got him to climb the stairs, but at the top he froze and wouldn’t go near the start of the slide.  I waited for quite some time, but he was too petrified to go a step closer to the slide.  I finally told him that he could descend the stairs, but I saw defeat written on his face.  A few minutes later, he asked if he could try the slide again, and I gave him some more encouragement as we climbed back up the stairs.  This time we got all the way to the entrance of the slide, and he even began to sit in my lap at the mouth of the slide.  But he froze again, gripping the overhead bar like his life depended upon it.  The people in the queue behind us were very patient and sympathetic, but eventually I got up and sat with him on the side.  I wished he would overcome this fear, and I waited with him for about 20 minutes as scores of people, including all his peers from camp hopped on the slide.  He looked miserable and wouldn’t look at me or at anyone else.  Eventually it was time for the kid’s gouter (afternoon snack), so I told him he either had to go back down the stairs or ride down with me on the slide.  Full of anguish, he quietly inched his way back down the stairs, defeat once again written into his body.  Amazingly though, after the snack, he asked if he could try the slide one more time.  He had been studying the path and asked if we could slow down at the very end before landing in the pool.  Bien sur!  I had told him all along that we’d go very slowly and that I’d keep him safe the whole time.  So for the third time we climbed the stairs, but I anticipated another failure.  This time, though he let go of the bar and I told those behind us to give us plenty of time, as we’d be going slowly.  At the bottom he was all smiles and begging to go again.  I eventually got us going faster and faster, and he loved every minute of it.  How trivial a thing a simple ride on a waterslide seems, but it was clearly a big step for him, and it redeemed him in the eyes of his peers.  I was very satisfied to see him leaving the day with victory and happiness in his eyes rather than defeat and shame.


3 Responses to “Small victories = steps towards manhood”

  1. Dad Says:

    There is a group that has a saying that goes something like this: “A man is never so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” Well done!
    Delightful story.

  2. aunt sandy roy Says:

    Dear Babette & Ken…..Your Mom shared your blog inform with me today…July 23rd….how delightful my reading has been…getting acquainted with Ken’s blog and both of your travels…I too wished I could visit some of those marvelous sights you have shared…so anxious to see you when you arrive next week….if it’s alright, I’ll join you’all for a visit too ?! Take care and God speed to both of you!

  3. Lydia Says:

    Aw, this made me cry! Poor little boy – I’m so glad you were kind to him, Kenny, not surprised at all! Yeah for sweet little Jeremie. Dad’s quote says it perfectly! Well done, Kenny!

Leave a Reply