Last week, I stayed overnight at my grandchildren's home to look after them while their parents went to a friend's wedding. Elijah is five. Phoebe is three.
This meant giving them breakfast on Friday morning.
It also meant finding out that Elijah could teach me a lesson in kindness.
A short play, set in a living room
Me: Have you finished your cereal, Phoebe?
Phoebe: Yes. Can I have toast now?
Me: What would you like on your toast?
Phoebe: Just plain, please.
Me: Okay, I'll go to the kitchen and make that. Elijah, have you finished your cereal?
Elijah: Not yet.
Me: I'll do your toast after Phoebe's. What will you have on yours?
Elijah: I have Marmite, please. I love Marmite the best.
Me: Here's your toast, Phoebe. Plain, as you said. Elijah, I've put some toast on for you. It'll be ready soon.
Phoebe: (looks at toast in horror, as though I'd served up rats' brains sprinkled with cayenne pepper)
Me: What's the matter?
Elijah: You've put butter on it, Grandma.
Me: Doesn't 'plain' mean ...
Elijah: No, plain means no butter.
Me: Dry toast?
Me: With nothing on it at all? I thought plain meant, no Marmite, or no peanut butter.
Elijah: No, it means plain.
(There is a pause, while Phoebe looks at me with trembling lip as if to say 'You're going to ask me to eat this, aren't you? I know it in my bones,' and Elijah looks at me as if to say 'If she tries to make Phoebe eat this, we are going to have Armageddon.')
Elijah: Actually, Grandma, I think I'd like toast with just butter today. (Moves Phoebe's plate to his place.) Phoebe can have my toast when it pops up.
How wise Elijah was, to select kindness and mercy in order to save the situation. He knows Phoebe better than I do. He lives with her. He knows what 'plain' means in Phoebe-speak. He knew she would have expected me to understand. He looked at the wider implications. He sacrificed his own preferences to achieve a win-win situation for both me and Phoebe.
The world needs more Elijah.
I sat there, watching him eat toast without Marmite that he loves the best, and watching Phoebe eat cardboard.
'You're a kind, kind boy,' I said.
He knew that, for Phoebe, toast with butter is rats' brains with cayenne pepper.
And so do I. Now.
|Later that day, finding stones to make, as Phoebe called them, 'wipples'.|