Courage on a Stick Horse

There I was, minding my own business.  I had my nose in a book (surprise! surprise!) I had my usual seat at Starbucks–camped out at my favorite table with access to an electrical outlet for my battery-challenged computer… and he walked in.

He got all of our attention.  The place practically stopped in its tracks.  The guy was a head-turner, all right.   Close-cropped sandy blonde hair that was already beginning to show the first highlights of the summer sun, and dark brown eyes.  Lean and carefree, his smile lit up the joint and we were all grinning all over ourselves as he galloped right through the coffee shop on his trusty steed–a stick horse with a plush head.

The planting of his feet were echoed by the rhythmic click of the broomstick hitting the ground. Who wouldn’t tell the kid how good he looked on his horse?  We asked the horses name and were informed that he didn’t have one because his horse liked secrets.  We chuckled.

He was equally as bold in ordering his strawberry and creme drink as he was in riding his horse into this suburban soccer mom gathering spot.

Had it not been completely creepy to ask, I would’ve sought his mother’s permission to take a picture of him for your viewing pleasure… but I had left my business cards in the car and the only camera I had on me was in my phone. (I don’t know why, but most mothers don’t seem to cotton to strangers approaching them about taking pictures of their kids with phones.)  So, like the others, I cherished the moment, indulged the kid, and tucked the image away into my memory for a warm moment later.

But as he galloped out of the store, I found myself envying him a bit.

I mean, I’m thirty-six years old.  I have proudly reached an age where I generally don’t care what other people think of me.  I dress for comfort, not fashion.  I style my hair the way I want without consulting the latest entertainment magazine to see if it’s all the rage.  I don’t own a dress anymore–social norms went out the window years ago in exchange for convenience.  I am a tattooed, sometimes green or blue-haired preacher, who really doesn’t care if you approve of my tattoos or my hair or my clothes.  This is who I am and if you can find reason to dislike me over a hairdo then we probably would’ve never been friends to begin with.

Take me or leave me, but what you see is what you get… and I wouldn’t be caught dead riding a stick horse through Starbucks.

Not that I wouldn’t want to.  Who wouldn’t want to ride a stick horse everywhere?  Let’s face it–It takes guts to do that. Guts I sure as heck don’t have.

That’s the great thing about kids, though.  They are bold.  The things that they are afraid of makes sense:  scary shadows in dark rooms, unidentified noises, things that will probably hurt you… But in all other aspects they are bold. Take a kid and turn him loose on a playground where he doesn’t know a soul, and within five minutes he’s already made at least one friend.  Because kids aren’t afraid of each other the way we adults usually are.

Give a kid a new toy and he recognizes it as a source of joy.  He’ll take advantage of that joy and drain every last drop of happiness out of it.  He doesn’t worry what other people will say about him if they see him being happy because kids don’t worry about what other people are saying about them.  If they’re happy, they’re happy.  They’ll let everyone around them know.

Give a kid a stick horse and he’ll ride it everywhere and show it off to everyone because no one else has one.  Give an adult a stick horse and we’ll get all giddy on the inside, remembering the joy of younger days, but we’ll lock it in the trunk out of sight because no one else has one.

Kids know that when they have something that others don’t that they have a duty to show it to everyone.  We adults cower from everyone else and hide it.

As that kid galloped past me, his stick horse clicking gently into the distance, I was a little envious…but I was a whole lot more inspired.

There is a reason why Jesus told us we needed to come to the Kingdom as children.  Usually we assume he said that because he wanted us to be innocent–but after watching courage ride through Starbucks on a stick horse, I realize Jesus wanted more than innocence.  He wanted our willingness.

He wanted us to be bold enough to take the precious gift he was giving us and to take joy in it.  He wanted us to have the boldness to take that gift and show it off to everyone around us.  Rather than shove all that grace and mercy and love into a trunk when others are looking, Jesus wanted us to take it out and let everyone see what sort of delights this world can hold for people if they just know where to turn.

I don’t know the kid’s name, but I do know the horse’s name is a secret–and thanks to that unnamed kid and his secretive horse, I can’t help but think this world would be a lot better if we all started acting a little more like a kid on a stick horse.

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