“Excuse me, young man,” said my grandmother leaning over to grab the foot of a young boy who was yelling and kicking his mother while she tried to pray in church. “Not only am I watching you misbehave, but God and Santa are too.” The little boy looked shocked, then surly as my grandmother stared him down. To my embarrassed relief, he not only sat still the rest of Mass, but his mother thanked my grandmother afterwards.
It’s amazing how quickly that story surfaced to my memory today after watching my daughter Meg during the school Mass.
Now that she’s an eighth-grade student, she attends Mass paired with a kindergarten student, just like the rest of her class. In front of Meg sat her friend Jordan and his little partner who seemed to have something stuck in his nose.
Through most of the service, the little boy poked and prodded around his nostril with his finger. Finally, he pulled his finger out, looked at it and looked around. He must not have seen what he was looking for because he looked back at his finger. Then, slowly, he began reaching out in the direction of his partner Jordan.
Quick as lightning, Meg grabbed his arm just above the elbow. She leaned in. “Just what are you planning to do with that booger?” she said in a voice so low, but smooth it cut the silence like a knife. The boy looked terrified, first at Meg and then back at his finger, then up at Meg again.
“I don’t know,” he squeaked like a mouse.
“Do you need a tissue?” she asked unblinkingly. I could see several of the teachers’ shoulders begin to shake as they watched, riveted like I was.
“Um…yes?” The boy said it as a question, perhaps hoping it was the right answer.
They stared a moment longer when Meg finally said, “I’ll go get you one then.” She let his arm go and started to move out of the bench when I saw her stop and look back at the boy. “That booger better still be on your finger and NOT on my friend’s shirt when I get back.” She stared hard. The boy swallowed visibly.
Moments later she returned with a tissue in hand. She leaned forward and waved the tissue directly in the little boy’s face. He took it, paused, reached out his finger to show her that the booger was still there, then wiped it on the tissue before putting it in his pocket.
Meg nodded her approval, and he little boy looked so relieved as he smiled and turned around. Then, promptly, he stuck his finger back in his nose.