Kevin was handed a packing list by the leaders of the mission trip, to which he responded by loading his own suitcase. I never even asked to check and see how well he thought out the possible holes in their list. He’ll have to learn the hard way. Which essentially means, if he only has the underwear he’s wearing today, he’ll never ever again forget to pack enough underwear. Sometimes I just don’t want to hear myself speak the blatant obvious anymore. Experience has a nicer more permanent voice.
He asked me to wake him at 6:30 am so he would be ready to get on the bus at 8:30. It’s a ten minute ride from home. I think he might have regretted the loss of sleep, except he was noticably nervous. He made some breakfast, clapped his thighs and said, I think I have time to have a good bible study before I go. He knows the value of prayer time with God when he’s feeling uneasy.
While I slurped coffee I heard him upstairs return the call to his dad. And then he returned a call to his grandma who wanted to bless his trip. His voice is so deep now. He came downstairs with a last minute form and a worried face knowing how much I don’t like last minute forms. I didn’t say anything, I just looked into his morphing face and wished he didn’t have such a pronounced mustache. My kids are all getting so big so fast.
As we walked towards the church where he would catch the bus I pulled out the handle on his luggage and gave it to him to pull. He scanned the parking lot and saw kids slinging duffles over their shoulders so he said, “No, I’ll carry it.” I pointed towards the door, “See someone else is rolling their suitcase too.” His eyes flashed at mine. I reminded him” I know what it’s like to be a teen. You want to make sure you are just like everyone else.” He smiled like he’d been found out, a shy little turn of the lips. Then I said, “guess what happens if you do something original?” I had his attention. “You might just become a leader. Be yourself and you’ll always know who you are.” I saw the idea register in his mind by the drifting up of his eyes and the silence that followed.
After I handed off the last minute form to the adults in charge he trailed off towards his friends. “Hey Kev, forget something?” Duh. Eh? I opened my arms and he smiled, so I got a goodbye hug. (but no kiss in front of his friends) I whispered a prayer in his ear.
The sixth grade kids are going into the inner city of Houston for four days to serve in the third and fourth ward communities. They will work twelve hours and then crash at the hotel. He’s a little nervous but he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him. I hope he learns in his heart what compassion feels like. I hope his smile makes the day of some stranger. I certainly don’t mind loaning out that smile, but I’ll miss it nonetheless.