Last week I was on vacation in Florida and found myself in a very undesirable place- a swimming pool. I haven’t been a fan of the beach or pool ever since the Coast Guard tried to tow me back into the surf- but that’s a story for a different day.
I’m at the pool because my little nephew shames me into going to their community pool at least one time while I’m visiting on vacation. This is a huge pool in a large community development with a lot of people. After about thirty minutes of undivided attention my nephew comes to realize that I wasn’t nearly as fun as expected and he goes off to play with his friends. Great news!
If nothing else at least now I can have some peace and quiet while staying mostly submerged avoiding the inevitable sunburn that average white boys like me are destined for. Minutes into this solitary bliss a little kid about five years old powers over next to me with the aid of his swimmies and starts staring at me He then says “will you play with me?”
Ok- I’d like to think I’m a nice guy but in my head I’m thinking- are you kidding me? Giant pool- tons of people and you want to have play time with me? Me? Go away and leave me alone! At least that is what I’m thinking but instead I blatantly lie and simply say “sure!”
What follows was a nightmare trilogy consisting of me, this kid and his pool toys. “Throw me the ball and I’ll catch it.” “When I catch it twenty-one times I win.” The kid didn’t tell me until after he reached twenty-one the full tournament would start with multiple games that I always managed to lose. Then it was on to the plastic rings that I had to throw and he’d retrieve like a demented Lab for me to throw again and again and again…. I’d politely try to end the games but he simply ignored me and continued on. This process easily went on for over a two hour period. If there were pens in the pool I would have surely stuck one in my eye.
Well into this water nightmare after I had lost yet another game of catch with him the kid’s sister who’s about ten years old swims over to me. The sister who had been playing with her friends then provides me with a life lesson that I should not soon forget. She starts by telling me that she knows that I’m letting her brother win in all of these games. I feign denial but she knows the truth.
The sister then tells me that I remind her and her brother of their Uncle Bear. Sis says that Uncle Bear “used” to play with her brother just like I was now. She that says “Uncle Bear died last year” and with those words she swims away.
In that moment God answered the question “why me.”
If but for a moment, I had been presented with the opportunity to be Uncle Bear for that kid. Maybe, just maybe, I had for a short period of time been used as an instrument of comfort and peace for that little kid. Maybe God just taught me a lesson about doing the right thing- even when the right thing doesn’t conform to my own desires.
Since that day I have come to wonder how many Uncle Bear moments I have dismissed in the past. Rarely do we know of all of the opportunities we have to bring a bit of happiness to complete strangers with our simple words and actions.
My lesson is now shared with you. Always be vigilant for your Uncle Bear moments for you never know when they will be presented to you.
RIP Uncle Bear.