Nothing beats spending time during late afternoon in summer with your 5-year-old grandson. And a combination of his ethnicity, mine, and the neighborhood in which I live adds considerable zest.
There's a little park at the south end of my block. On this sultry afternoon, there are perhaps 15 adults and 40 children gathered here. Some of the kids are swinging, some climbing the jungle gym, and a few have hopped over the locked fence to investigate the wading pool.
All 55 of the people in the park are African-Americans, as is my grandson. Not me. I'm as pink as pink can be, and – oh! – the looks I get.
I amuse myself by overhearing the conversations of the other parkgoers after my grandson and I pass by. This playing in the park with Emmanuel is the best sermon I have ever preached. In fact, I think I could take all the sermons I've ever uttered, put them on one side of the scale, and I do not believe they would outweigh the love Emmanuel and I are sharing in Smith Park this afternoon.
It all goes wonderfully smoothly until we head for home. "Granddad," Emmanuel says, "I want to climb the monkey bars."
How could I refuse? He does a marvelous job of climbing. Have you ever noticed how especially talented your own grandchildren are?
Then a little boy pushes him. Emmanuel falls to the sand and begins to cry.
He's overtired, of course. These expeditions with Granddad can really wear a fellow out. Wait and see Granddad himself, for example, later this evening, slump into his recliner after he has returned Emmanuel safely home.
So Granddad picks the boy up, wipes the sand from his teary face, makes sure his eyes are sand-free, and begins to carry him home.
Now here comes the good news that is really surprising to me.
Less than three houses from the park, I hear a young male voice calling, "Sir! Sir!"
I turn to see a man in his 20s. He has in tow the boy who pushed Emmanuel.
Do you want to hear all the talk we two men made – how important it is to teach children accountability, how "we're trying to raise this boy right," and what a shame it is that the world is coming to such a pass?
Let's not listen to all that talk. Let's settle for the little boy's soft "I'm sorry," and Emmanuel's "I accept your apology" in reply.
Then let's stand a minute and let the warm glow of shared humanity reach to the very bottom of your being as the young dad tells his son, "Now shake hands," and they do.
And if I can't get an "Amen!" from the congregation on this one, I'm going back to the park, where I belong.