~Helen Williams! c 1989
Way out under the old maple tree, Mrs. Randall saw three little boys. She didn’t care if they got dirty. They weren’t her boys. But, she did mind that it was her dirt, and that it was her tree they were playing under.
She was an quirky lady, to say the least. She’d never had any children of her own, and she always seemed nervous when there were any around. But, if you’d ask her, she’d say she really liked kids, however, that when they were in her yard, she was always concerned that one of them would get hurt. Then, somehow, she’d be responsible. If you knew her, you’d make up your own mind as to whether she was lying, and really just didn’t like children at all, or whether she might be telling the truth.
She pulled her curtains together a little so the boys wouldn’t see her watching them. They sat there so content that she hated to disturb them. They weren’t hurting anything, and how would they get hurt just sitting there under the tree? They looked so happy it made her think back to when she could last remember being that happy. She could almost hear her friend Gladys laughing now. She smiled and reminisced about what it was that they were laughing so gaily about. She sat down and thought about it for a few minutes. Then recalled that the same boy they laughed over together that day was the same boy they fought over later.
She turned and looked out the window at the boys. They were still sitting there with smiles on their faces, drawing pictures in the dry dirt and arranging the stones in various ways. She thought, “If they were to get mad at each other over any silly little thing, one might throw a stone at the other...”
She stood to walk over to the door and knew she had to chase them off. But, as she opened the door and looked out at them, she knew she was being ridiculous. “Why, I’ll just mosey over there and see what they’re up to. If I make them a little nervous or anything, they’ll leave on their own accord. I don’t want anyone to have any occasion to think that I was being mean to them or anything.”
So off she leisurely walked, slowly meandering in their general direction. She stopped and picked some flowers and pretended to watch the clouds in the sky. All in vain, though. The boys hadn’t even noticed her there. Johnny, the older boy, she recognized. But, she wasn’t sure who the other boy was. He was asking Johnny a question about the stones, and she had to get a little closer to hear his answer.
“What’s so special about them there stones? Why do you have them over there instead of over here with the rest of the stones, Johnny?” he asked. “Well you see, there’s not really anything special about them, Joe, I just plan on taking them home with me. You see I have a collection of stones,” he answered.
“Well, if there’s nothing special about them, why do you want to take them home? Why would you want just plain old stones like those for your collection? Most people who collect stones probably pick out special stones, like because they like their color. Or because they’re shaped a certain way. Or maybe because there’s a fossil in it or something. Those are just plain old stones, who’d want them?”
“Me,” replied Johnny. “I want just plain old stones for my collection. See I don’t think they have to look any certain way for what I want them for.”
“Well, stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want them for,” insisted Joe.
Mrs. Randall was wondering the same thing, by now. Johnny said, “You see, Larry Templeton’s mom was talking at us one day and she was explaining about some story that Larry had a question about and I had to sit there and listen while she was talking. Larry took down one of his stones from his collection and gave it to me so I could start my own collection.” Joe interrupted, “Like you needed one of his to start your own collection? There’s nothing special about them anyways.”
“Hey Joe, don’t make fun. Out of all the people in the world, do you think that God only loves the special ones and sets them aside for His collection up there in heaven?” Joe started. “No, don’t be so stupid, He loves all of us, we all have an equal chance to get into His collection. Once you’re accepted, He calls you one of His saints." The littler, yet unnamed, boy was squirming at the tone in Johnny's voice.
"Anyhow, that’s not why we collect the stones. I keep them because Larry does. He has a pretty big collection of them. He may get to see something really neat someday, and I want to see it, too, when it happens. Let’s see if I can tell you the story the right way. First she said to me, “What’s so special about a stone?” I said, “Nothin’.” Then she said, “So what do you think it would have to praise God for?” I said, “Nothin’,” And then she said, “Someday we might just see them do just that.” I said, “What?” She said that in the Bible there’s a story where Jesus said that if we don’t cry out with songs and praise to God, that the very stones will do it. I asked, “How can stones praise God? What would they have to praise Him for, anyhow?” And she said, “With God all things are possible. If He wants the stones to praise Him, then they will. But, He’d rather have us praise Him, but He won’t make us do it. We have to want to do it ourselves.” I asked her if she ever saw anybody praise God, and she said that yes, people do it all the time. Then she said that if I want to see people doing it for real, that I could come to church with them that next Sunday. So then Larry handed me another stone and said that it would be great if I came to church with them. So I got to go. It was pretty neat, but I told Larry that if all those people keep praising God, that we’d never get to see any stones do it. He laughed at me and said, “Well, you never know!”
The younger boy was staring with amazement now, at both of the bigger boys.
"I just wish I could remember the story that Larry was talking about with his mom in the first place. But, I’ve been going to church with him ever since. Seeing people do it is pretty neat, sometimes. No wonder God would rather have us do it. Sometimes I even do. Sometimes, I can’t help myself and I just have to.”
Joe stared hard at him for a few minutes. He put his hand out and said, “Well, aren’t you going to give me a stone and take me to church with you?”
|(photo from tylo.com)|
Mrs. Randall laughed and they heard her. “What’s so funny?” Joe blurted out.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Randall,” Johnny said with a tone of dismay in his voice.
“Oh John, don’t let the fun go out of this conversation just because I showed up on the scene. I’ve been listening to your whole story and I think that it was absolutely wonderful,” she said.
Joe blurted again, “Then what was so funny? Don’t you think a stone can praise God, or what? Or do you think that we’re just some stupid little boys telling funny stories. Well, I got news for you, I believe Johnny and he’s gonna take me to church with him and prove it anyhow.”
“Oh no, son, I believe John. I even go to his church. That’s probably why he looked so glum when he saw me standing here. Everyone at church thinks I don’t like children, and he probably thought I was going to chase you off. Huh, John?” she said.
“Well, weren’t you?” Johnny replied.
Mrs. Randall paused for a minute and knew she had to tell the truth and said, “Well, to be honest with you, at first I was. I thought that maybe you and your little friends would get into a fight and maybe one of you might get hurt. So I thought that I should come out here and tell you to play somewhere else. But, I never thought I’d discover you telling him about God. When I was little, no one ever told me about God. A lot of people did things to hurt me. So I guess my thinking is a little warped. I assume that everyone is out to hurt kids, and that even other kids hurt you, too. But, really John, you’ve shown me something very special. You’re a very loving boy, even toward your little friends here. I guess I really shouldn’t be all that surprised, huh?”
“Mrs. Randall, I know everyone thinks you’re mean. But, since you come to church and all that, I guess I always thought that you were hiding your niceness or something. ‘Cause if you know Jesus like the rest of the people at church, you have to have niceness in there somewhere, right?” said Johnny.
Mrs. Randall felt very embarrassed to say the least. She looked up at the clouds in the sky and tried to blink away her tears. “John, I just have a lot of hurt inside of me. A lot of things that I acquired a long time ago.”
Johnny interrupted her and asked, “Well, then don’t you just have to forgive the people that hurt you? Won’t Jesus take care of the rest? That’s what Mrs. Templeton says.”
“Hey,” blurted out Joe, “hey, if you go to church, do you know the story Johnny was talking about before? The one where the stones are supposed to cry out praise to God if people don’t?”
Mrs. Randall nodded her head and told them about Jesus coming into the city on the back of a donkey and the people all praising Him, and how that if they didn’t, the stones would have. “God deserves praise just because of Who He is. So even if He’s never done anything for those stones, even they couldn’t have held back their praise. And how much more we should praise Him for what He has done for us.”
She looked back up at the clouds and blinked away a few more tears. Johnny noticed the tears and nudged Joe and nodded his head at the smaller boy, suggesting that they go home or play somewhere else now. They stood up and the littlest boy said, “Thank you for telling us the story. Do you want to start a stone collection, too? Johnny has lots of stones here, and after all, they come from your yard and...”
John reached out and put a stone into her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. He walked away taking Joe’s arm in his other hand. They got to the edge of her property and began to walk a little faster. Over their shoulders they could hear Mrs. Randall crying. Johnny turned to the other two and said, “Don’t worry, they’re happy tears. She’s crying out praises to her God.”
All three of them grinned and squeezed their stones.
|(photo from thoughtsfromparis.com)|
(This is a story from a collection I wrote way back in the late 80s.)