The Clumsy Little Boy
Once there lived a clumsy little boy. When he was very little, learning to walk turned out to be a chore. He preferred to sit quietly on the couch and watch his little world go by. But finally, he did begin to explore around him, in his clumsy way. One day, after his mother had watched him stumble down the steps once again, she said, “If I don’t do something, he’ll kill himself! But what can I do?” Then she saw a notice announcing the start of a tumbling class for kids. “Just what he needs,” she said.
At the first class, all the little kids watched their teacher do summersaults down the mat. Then they got in a line and one by one, went end-for-end down the mat. Except for the clumsy little boy. He went side-for-side down the mat. And the teacher shook her head. When she guided his little body, he did fine summersaults, but as soon as she walked away, side-for-side went the clumsy little kid.
At the next class, the little kids learned to do backwards summersaults. Except for the clumsy little boy. Teacher made him stop and watch the others before he really hurt himself. The clumsy little boy didn’t care. He loved to watch the other little kids go backwards end-for-end past him.
At the next class, the little kids started learning to stand on their head. Teacher told them to stay straight as a broomstick, but the clumsy little boy was more like a wet noodle. She helped him and helped him and helped him again and still, he didn’t even learn to be a good wet noodle.
At the next class, the kids began to learn to cartwheel. After a bit of practice, they could wheel round and round down the mat. Except for the clumsy little boy. His cartwheels were flat tires and teacher once again had to stop him before he hurt himself.
So went each new week. And not once did the clumsy little boy do a single decent summersault, or cartwheel, or head stand, or anything else.
Teacher began to panic. At the last class, all the little kids would perform for their families and friends. They would summersault and cartwheel and head stand and show everyone how much they had learned. What could she do with the clumsy little boy? Should she ask his mother not to bring him to the last class? Should she cancel her favorite part of teaching, when everyone could see how well she had taught her little students? Then teacher had a glorious idea, a spectacular idea, the perfect solution to her problem. She would find a clown costume for the clumsy little boy and let him do his best. Everyone would laugh and cheer and love his performance. And they did.
At the performance, all the little kids did their best summersaults. Except for the clumsy little kid. He did his best side-for-side-for-side. The audience tittered a bit, but when the clumsy little boy stood up at the end of the mat with a huge smile on his face, everyone laughed and clapped.
Then all the little kids did their best head stand. The clumsy little kid did his best wet noodle and everybody laughed and clapped. And his smile grew bigger.
Then the little kids did their best cartwheels. And the clumsy little boy did his best flat tires. And everybody laughed and clapped and he beamed.
So went the performance. Over and over again, the clumsy little boy did his best and the audience loved it. The clumsy little boy loved it too. He loved making people laugh. He loved making people happy.
When the last of the tumbling ended, all the little kids got in a line across the stage and teacher joined them in a bow. The audience clapped and cheered. Then teacher did something that would change a little boy’s life forever. She asked the little boy in the clown costume to step out of the line and take his own bow. The audience erupted in laughter and cheers and clapping. The little boy who was so very clumsy stood transfixed, bathed in the joy all those people were sharing with him.
A little later, as the clumsy little boy was taking off his clown costume, the best tumbler in the class, an agile little girl, came up to him. “How could you ruin our performance?” she hissed. “You made such a fool of yourself. Everybody was laughing at you. They think you’re so stupid. And you are. I hate you. You ruined everything. I don’t ever want to see you again, Stupid!” Then she turned and walked away. The clumsy little boy stood paralyzed. Tears formed in his eyes. And thoughts began parading through his mind, thoughts that were lies. Of course she was right. They were laughing AT me. They do think I’m stupid. Because I am. I can’t even do a single summersault.
And this parade of thoughts continued, each and every day, as the clumsy little boy grew up. Don’t raise your hand. They might laugh at you. Don’t try to learn that, somebody might laugh at you. Don’t take that chance. If you mess up they’ll laugh at you. Don’t, don’t, don’t or you’ll regret it as the laughter surrounds you.
But this story has a happy ending. The clumsy little boy stayed clumsy and little until he became an adult, but he found he had a knack for school. He might not raise his hand in class, but he could study hard and get an A every chance he got. He got lots of A’s. He even somehow managed to give some speeches in a high school English class, even though he was sure he would die first.
When the not so clumsy high school graduate went off to college, he spent four years never once raising his hand in a college class. He gave no one a chance to laugh at him, until he met Helen. Helen was a walking, talking grin and giggle. The young man fell in love and love showed him the lies he let parade through his mind. And together they had Celeste, who taught the once clumsy little boy how to be a father and who awakened a calling in him. The clumsy little boy grew up to be a teacher, who loved all the clumsy little kids and the agile little kids he taught. But what he enjoyed the most was telling them stories that might keep them from believing the parade of lies going through their own little minds. He wanted them to know how wonderfully perfect and loved they are, just as they are.