By Linda Porter Carlyle
Hannah Maria Estevez ran down the sidewalk to where Mama was parked under a big oak tree. Mama always waited in the same spot when she came to pick Hannah up at school. She parked in the shade under the big tree so Baby Paulo wouldn’t get too hot as he finished his afternoon nap in his car seat.
Hannah shifted her schoolbooks and her lunch bag to one arm so she could open the car door.
Mama smiled at Hannah through the open window. “Sh!” she said softly and pointed to the back seat. Hannah peeked in at Baby Paulo. His head drooped down to his chest. His dark hair clung to his head in damp curls. Just looking at Baby Paulo made Hannah smile. Even when she definitely did not feel like smiling.
Hannah opened the car door. She climbed in beside Mama and put her books on the seat. Then she carefully pulled the car door shut. It was tricky to pull the door hard enough so that it would catch but not too hard so it would slam and wake up the baby. Hannah glanced into the back seat. Baby Paulo slept on.
“How was your day?” Mama asked in a whisper.
Sudden tears streaked Hannah’s hot cheeks as the bad memories instantly flooded over her. She couldn’t say anything at all for a minute.
Mama looked at Hannah in astonishment. Then she dug in her purse for a tissue. “What is the matter?” she asked anxiously.
Hannah scrubbed at her face with the tissue and sniffled. “We had to play baseball at recess,” she said.
“Did you get hurt?” Mama asked.
“No,” Hannah answered. She wiped away more tears before she continued. “But I’m always the last person picked for a team. Every time. And when I had to bat, I struck out because I always do. And Steven said he knew I would, and he hoped I was never on his team again! I hate baseball!”
Mama rubbed Hannah’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she said. “At least baseball’s not one of your school subjects,” she added, trying to make a little joke.
It didn’t help. “I know I’m not any good at baseball!” Hannah sobbed. “And I wouldn’t even play, but Miss Frasier made everybody play. I can’t hit the ball, and I can’t catch it either! I hate baseball, and I hate that mean Steven!”
Mama pulled another tissue out of her purse and gave it to Hannah. “That’s a real problem,” she said. “At least half of it is,” she added. “I don’t think Jesus cares whether or not you like baseball. But I know He doesn’t want you to hate anybody. You have to forgive Steven for his unkind words.”
Hannah looked miserably at Mama. “I don’t want to!” she muttered.
“Jesus forgives us every time we do something that hurts Him,” Mama reminded her softly. “And He asks us to forgive other people the same way when they hurt us.”
Hannah didn’t say anything. There was an ugly, heavy feeling inside her.
Mama started the car. They drove home in quietness. Hannah stared out the window without really seeing anything. Baby Paulo slept.
Mama pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. She looked across at Hannah. “I have an idea about baseball,” she said. “Maybe I could help you learn to catch. I’m not great at catching either. But we could get better together. And maybe Papa could help you with batting.”
“I guess I could try,” Hannah mumbled.
Baby Paulo stirred in his car seat. He squeaked and stretched.
“And somebody’s going to have to teach Paulo how to catch a baseball someday,” Mama said.
That was a thought! Hannah unbuckled her seat belt and turned around so she could watch Baby Paulo wake up.
“But the most important thing,” Mama continued, “is the forgiving part. Someday we’ll have to teach Paulo about forgiving too.”
“Thankfully, you do not have to feel like forgiving Steven,” Mama said. “Forgiving is a decision, not a feeling. And Jesus will help you to do it.”
Baby Paulo opened his eyes. He saw Hannah peering at him over the top of the seat. He smiled at her and waved his arms and legs.
Thoughts raced through Hannah’s mind. Catching. Batting. Forgiving. If she practiced them, maybe she would get better at them all. She reached out and tickled Baby Paulo’s leg. “OK,” she said. “I decide to forgive Steven.”
Baby Paulo shrieked with delight and blew big bubbles of drool.
The ugly, heavy feeling in Hannah’s chest slid away.
Are you a good baseball player? Is there a game or a school subject you don’t do very well? What do you think Jesus would have done if He had been Steven? If He had been Hannah? How do you think He would want you to act toward a kid who can’t do things as well as you do? What does Jesus want us to do when someone hurts us? When forgiving someone is hard for you (and it usually is hard for all of us), remember to ask Jesus to give you forgiveness. He can do that. He really can.—Love, Mrs. Sox