STEVE PLAYL | Viewpoint

Sammie and I had worked hard, all day — in fact, we had invested lots of “sweat equity” for several weeks — and we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. Everything had to be just right for our special anniversary celebration. It was already “dark-thirty,” and I was trying to trim the hedge without the luxury or sunlight. Wasn’t doing a real good job, I might add.

“Why don’t you just give it up?” she said. “Call Benny and get him to do it. He does a much better job than you do, anyway!”

Benny, a former neighbor, and others in his family had more experience on the hedge between our houses than did I, and he did a better job, too. Still, her suggestion that I was no expert hedge-trimmer — even after hours of yard work, even after dark — stung my male ego — especially after hours of yard work and especially after dark.

“I’ll finish it tomorrow! I know what I’m doing! I just can’t see to do it perfectly right now!”

“Give it up! Call Benny!”

“OK!” And gathering the trimmer and extension cord, I headed inside.

It wasn’t really a fight or even an argument, just a difference of opinions and a discussion at a little higher than normal volume.

But Grayson and Anderson, who were spending a few days with us, were not used to seeing and hearing Nahnee and Papa have disagreements. So, as I headed inside, Grayson approached Sammie with words beyond his 8 years:

“Nahnee, I prayed for you and Papa just now, and it’s all okay, even if it’s not perfect.”

Ouch! That stung the spirit. It also reminded us that being physically weary had caused us to let down our guard and speak to each other in tones that we usually do not use — especially when our stinking cute grandchildren are around.

On another occasion, again in Grayson’s presence, we were going through a light-hearted ritual that we practice often, always in good humor. We were splitting dessert, and Sammie, as always, said, “You take the last bite!”

After a few faux attempts to resist her offer, I took the last bite — as always.

Grayson asked why she gave in so easily, and she replied with an exaggerated pouty look on her face, “I always give Papa the last bite.” (Dramatic emphasis on “always.”)

“Nahnee!” G responded in pretend horror, “You shouldn’t have to always give Papa the last bite!”

Then he turned to me and with fire in his eyes he spat out the name of a newly invented website, “SELFISH.COM”

We have laughed many times since then about the new website, Where he came up with that one, we still have no clue. But we have used the term often, always in jest.

So, how do you react to being called out, whether by a boss, a spouse, a co-worker or an 8-year-old? Sometimes, as in the second example, it can be humorous, something to laugh about at a later time. Other times, as in the first illustration, we need to learn from our mistake and take the “correction” to heart.

When Grayson reminded us about putting things in perspective and getting our priorities straight, Sammie hugged him, thanked him and assured him we still love each other. We have hugged him and prayed for him when he has made mistakes, too. When she told me about Grayson’s words, I was also humbled by the simple faith and wisdom of a child.

Jesus was asked by his disciple who would be greatest in the Kingdom. In response, he sat a little child in their midst.

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Steve Playl — chaplain, columnist, college instructor and former pastor— can be emailed at

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