Little Joe loved being the youngest kid, well most of the time he did. For one thing, he did not have to do as many chores as Emily and Molly. He didn’t have to go to school, or do homework and he got to play most of the day. Even though he was free to explore and have fun he was also learning to be, what Mama calls, responsible.
Little Joe was learning how to make his bed, pick up his toys after playing and brush his teeth after eating. He was learning how to do the dishes and mama said he was getting real good at it.
His favorite thing to do each day was to play with Timmy. Timmy was little Joe’s neighbor and his best friend too. His mommy allowed Little Joe to play with Timmy whenever he wanted to.
Even though Little Joe was always allowed to play with Timmy he had to stay in his yard at all times. That is one of the things, about being the youngest kid, little Joe did not like. Molly and Emily could cross the street whenever they wanted to, why couldn’t he?
One day when Timmy and Little Joe were playing ball outside, the ball rolled across the street. Little Joe knew that he could not leave the yard but he was so tempted. It would only take a split second to grab the ball and bring it back to the yard. Before he knew it his little legs were running as fast as they could. He wanted to get that ball and bring it back before anyone saw him.
Just as he was about to run into the street he heard a loud SCREECH and as he looked left he saw a big white car swerve so close to him he thought he was going to be hit.
Uncle Joe came running from behind the garage and yelled, “Little Joe, are you okay?” But Little Joe could not speak and he could not move.
Just then Mama came out the door. Her pretty face looked terrified. “Little Joe, get out of the street Right Now!” she ordered.
Little Joe backed up until he felt the safety of the curb. He stepped up on the curb as his legs went weak. Suddenly he was on the ground. Little Joe pulled his legs up close to his body, dropped his head to his knees and wrapped his hands behind his neck. Hot tears welled up in his eyes. His legs and his whole body started shaking. He was afraid to look up. “If only I could go back and call for Uncle Joe to get the ball for me,” he thought.
When Little Joe looked up Uncle Joe was standing next to him and Mama was waving at the big white car. Uncle Joe spoke softly, “Little Joe, are you okay?”
Little Joe shook his head yes and then he began to cry loudly. “I’m so sorry Uncle Joe.” Just then Mama came walking up to Little Joe. There was fear in Mama’s eyes. Little Joe whimpered, “I almost got killed, Mama !”
Uncle Joe bent down and rubbed Little Joe’s head. “Come on Wee Man, get up, you’re safe now.“ As little Joe stood to his feet he said, “Why do I always disobey the rules, Uncle Joe? I know the rules but I just don’t want to obey them.”
Uncle Joe’s face got serious and that far away look washed over him. “Well, Wee Man, ever since the beginning of time people have had a problem with rules. Every person wants to do things their own way, nobody really wants to obey the rules. It’s only when we understand that God gave us rules to protect us, not hurt us, that we begin to see why we must obey the rules.”
Little Joe looked up at Mama as a tear slipped from his eye. “Mama, I’m sorry I disobeyed you. Sometimes I think rules are dumb but I know that you give me rules to protect me, just like God gives me rules to protect me. Will you forgive me, Mama?”
Mama’s face softened and the corners of her mouth turned up as her eyes twinkled. “Yes, Wee man, I do forgive you.” Mama wrapped her arms around Little Joe as she picked him up and twirled him around two times. Little Joe loved his Mama and he was so sorry he disobeyed and frightened her.
Little Joe was beginning to understand why Mama and Papa said the rules in the Summerfield family must be obeyed. If a rule is broken, there is alway a consequence. “Mama, what is my consequence?” asked Little Joe.
Mama held Little Joe’s hand and looked directly into his eyes, “What do you think your consequence should be?” she asked
Little Joe hung his head and thought about it. “Well Mama, I think I should go to bed without supper and I should be grounded to the house for a whole month.”
Mama patted Little Joe’s head gently as she bent down beside him. “Wee man, I think you have punished yourself pretty hard all by yourself. I believe you learned an important lesson today. I’ve decided to give you grace.”
“What do you mean Mama? What does grace mean?” said Little Joe.
Looking up into the trees, Mama took a moment to think, as if she might find the right words falling like the leaves around her. “What I mean when I say Grace is that I will not give you a consequence this time, even though you deserve one.”
“Really Mama! No Consequence!” Little Joe said as he looked at his mama in amazement.
“Really Little Joe, no consequence at all!” answered Mama
Just then Timmy, who had been watching the whole thing, ran up to Little Joe and fell into his arms. He gave his friend a full bear hug and as he tucked his face into Little Joe’s shoulder he said, “You coulda got killed, Little Joe! You coulda got killed!! I am so glad you didn’t! You are so lucky!”
Mama laughed softly as she reached out to ruffle Timmy’s hair. “Timmy, I’d say Little Joe was protected, not lucky.” Timmy’s face turned red because Mama always made his face turn red.
Little Joe gave Timmy a friendly punch on the arm, grabbed the ball, and said, come on Buddy let’s play ball!