Little Johnny protests at the table

Published 9:25 pm Friday, May 25, 2018

“Little Johnny, I’m going to need you to bow your head during the prayer,” dad said sternly as soon as he had finished saying the prayer over supper.

Johnny sat quietly, picking at his food.

“Little Johnny, do you understand me? I don’t want you looking around the room while we’re praying. It’s not respectful.”

“I understand, dad,” said Johnny, “but I can’t do that.”

“What do you mean you can’t do that?”

“I mean,” said Johnny meekly, “I’m protestin’.”

“You’re protesting? What do you mean you’re protesting?” dad said, raising his voice half a scale higher.

“Well, I’m protestin’ because Billy has been pickin’ on me when we’re out in the back yard playin’.”

Dad looked at Johnny a little sideways:

“You mean to tell me,” he said slowly, making sure what he was hearing was what he was hearing, “because your brother is picking on you in the backyard, you’re not going to bow your head and say the prayer.”

“That’s right,” said Johnny, hesitatingly. “I need to draw attention to this problem and try to get it resolved.”

“I see,” said dad, “I see. But let me ask you something. Have you thought about coming and telling your mom and me about the problem and seeing if we could help you handle it?”

“I could do that, I guess,” said Johnny. “But I think by not bowing my head for the prayer I can make a bigger statement. I can really get your attention.”

“Oh,” said dad, with a chuckle, “you did that. You have my full attention. In fact, I don’t know whether you’ve ever gotten my attention any more in the seven years I’ve known you than you have right now.”

“So, dad,” Johnny said nervously, “do you see why I can’t bow my head?”

“Oh, I see why you think you can’t bow your head.”

“I’m glad you see it my way, dad.”

“But,” dad added quickly, ignoring that comment, “we actually now have two problems, both of which we’re going to fix right now. First, Billy has a problem. Every time Billy picks on you in the backyard, you come and tell me and I’ll address that problem with the seat of his pants.”

“Thanks, dad, I guess that could work. What’s the other problem?”

“The other problem is you,” dad said, and immediately Johnny’s 7-year-old face tensed up. “Somehow you’ve gotten the idea that to protest what Billy is doing you’re going to disrespect God. Where’d you get such an idea as that?”

“No, dad, I didn’t mean to disrespect God. I just wanted to protest.”

“I understand,” said dad, “but when you decided to not bow your head during prayer, you disrespected God whether you meant to or now. It’s not God’s fault Billy is picking on you. That’s Billy’s fault. Don’t blame God for that.”

Johnny shook his head, thought for a moment, then said:

“You do have a good point, dad. And I don’t mean to disrespect you, because you do give me a place to live, and mom does cook these good meals for us every day.”

Johnny looked over and gave mom a little smile, which she returned graciously.

“But, dad,” he said, “would it work if I just stayed in my room until the prayer is finished, then come in and eat?”

“No, Johnny, that’s not going to work, either. If you want to eat, you come in and pray with the rest of us. We’re a family.”

“But, dad,” Johnny said, pulling out his final argument, “since we live in America, don’t I have the right to protest?”

“Oh, yes, you do,” dad said firmly. “Absolutely. You have every right to protest. You just don’t have the right to protest at my table, then expect to eat.”

Johnny shook his head, smiled, and said, “Thanks, dad, we’re good,” then, turning to mom, said, “Will you pass me the potatoes, mom? I’m starvin’.”