Editor's note: Jesse E. Pitts has lived in Brazil since 1962. He served as principal at Brazil High School for 19 years.
I sauntered away from the park pavilion on a warm summer afternoon, to get a breath of air, while the families waited for the church picnic to begin.
Although the Sunday afternoon was filled with sunshine and a soft breeze tousled my hair, a sour tidbit of melancholy was entangled in my thoughts.
The old hymn I had sung as a solo for morning worship that day was received with polite acceptance and kind words, but clearly, the polished contemporary number by a younger man that followed, was so much better for the congregation that day. I was in my 70s and realized that Father Time was gaining on me.
My thoughts were interrupted by a bouncing, happy 5-year-old, Sara, the daughter of one of the young couples of the church. She grabbed my hand, pulling me toward the play ground and saying, "you got to come over here. You're a king. You have to sit on your throne and watch me do something."
"A throne? A king? What do you mean honey," I stammered, while giving ground.
She pulled me over to a small set of bleachers, where parents often sat to watch their kids at play among towers, bridges, swings and slides of a large playground. Sara -- this little dynamo of human energy and delightful imagination -- was a running, jumping, talking, 3-foot bundle of creativity and delight. I realized at last that I was to sit, being regal if possible, while I watched a performance she was about to give.
Before Sara could begin her joyful entertainment for the "king," another chubby 5-year-old appeared. It was Sara's friend Kaleen.
"We are the beautiful princesses and you are the king," she said.
Now there were two performers to present some kind of singing, giggling, jumping routine I supposed. I sat straight with the imaginary crown on my gray head. I was getting used to the idea of being "king."
Suddenly, and without explanation of any kind, the script of our fantasy changed.
"You are our Dad," one of them said. "We are going to school and we need lunch money."
Without grumbling about the kingdom's crumbling so quickly, I went through the motions of reaching for change for their meals. I put some imaginary coins into each little outstretched, sweaty paw.
They skipped away toward the play equipment where a pipe frame, complete with seats and steering wheel, served as a make-believe school bus that I guessed would take them to their mythical school. They climbed on board and began their sweet child's play as imaginary driver and passenger.
I thought the little drama was over and began visiting with a nearby friend who was enjoying the park, too. Before we had exchanged more than a greeting, here came the "beautiful princesses" or "school girls," (take your pick), racing back to me, calling out excitedly.
"Oh, Dad, you've got to come quick! Sara was driving the school bus and we've had a terrible wreck! I have a broken arm and she has a broken leg!"
With that, of course, I had to resume the whimsy and go see about this terrible crash. Both Sara and Kaleen, despite their shattered arms and legs, miraculously tripped along beside me. My being there to view the imaginary wreckage seemed to fill the bill.
They smiled with apparent satisfaction with their fantasy that had played out in Forest Park on that lovely summer day.
As the call came for the church picnic to begin and the girls returned to their parents, I walked back to the pavilion a much different man than when I left it. These little girls had included me in their play for a few brief moments and, somehow, my heart was full of joy. I had been a "King," and a "Dad," to small children, once again.
As I enjoyed the fried chicken, mouth-watering casseroles and the iced tea with my wife, I remembered h ow, when Jesus was asked who was the greatest in the kingdom, he called some little children to stand next to him.
I could better understand how children are great in His eyes. Who knows, they may have been doing some special work for Him that very day in Forest Park when they chose an unlikely playmate.