She stands in front of the toy bin, both arms full with an overflowing red tub of tinker toys and cars.
She tries to slide the tub into the bin slots but the tub is too big to fit. She’s going to need help.
But I know my Little Bit: she doesn’t like admitting her need for others. I can see it on her face, the pride pressing her to go it alone, to avoid being vulnerable, to be independent.
I offer her a path out of her predicament, the way of escape before she digs herself into an unsavory situation. “Little Bit, do you think that tub is going to fit?”
“No,” she replies with a tinge of whine to her voice.
“What do you think you should do?” I prompt her, offering a magic feather. It helped Dumbo fly and I want my girl to soar. All she has to do is ask for help.
She doesn’t take the way offered. She decides to go it alone. “I need to get a stool,” she tells me.
Even with a stool, she can’t reach the top slot. She knows just as much as I do that sliding the tub into the top bin is a flat-out impossibility.
But there she is, looking a fool trying to balance on her tiptoes on top of a stool, arms filled and aching, back arching. Listening to the voice of pride always puts one in a precarious, foolish position.
“Little Bit,” I try again. “Do you think you can slide that tub in?”
“No,” she says, still hard and independent.
“Well… what do you think you should do?”
She starts crying. Admitting her dependence, her need, is just about to kill her. It is painful. It is threatening.
That’s how it is when you’ve been lied to. When you’ve depended on somebody and they left you in a cardboard box on the day you were born… when you needed someone to care for you and they took the liberty to take a cigarette lighter to your genitals… darkness is there. But it isn’t the darkness that damages so much as it is the lies that accompany.
Because you can leave behind cardboard boxes and cigarette lighters. You can leave behind past identities and bad choices and the good news is that you really can be rescued out of darkness.
But the lies aren’t so quick to leave behind.
The lies move in. They tell you you’re better off alone. “You can’t trust anyone,” the serpent whispers. “You’re safer this way.”
And we believe and we act on our beliefs and we establish an entire way of life around…a lie.
“What do you think you should do?” I ask her again. Crying, Little Bit asks for help. I reach out and take the tub from her. We finish picking up and afterwards, we talk about pride. I sit on the stool with her in my lap. “Pride is not your friend,” I tell her. “Pride will isolate you and steal from you. When you hear pride telling you not to ask for help, don’t listen to it. It is not your friend!”
I wipe away her tears and she shudders relief in my arms.
After lunch, we all go for a walk. Hawkers and street vendors are out selling their goods and we buy fresh sugar cane sticks for the kids. Jackson spots peeled, whole pineapples and we approach the vendor to ask how much.
He eyeballs us and says, “Eight dollars.”
I’m put off. No doubt the man is giving us the jacked up foreigner price.
“That’s ridiculous,” I tell Jackson. “Let’s go.”
We leave and meander and finally stop in a small grocery store for some bananas. Jackson picks out a pineapple to boot. When we get to the cash register, the pineapple price rings up: $23.60
I gulp. And fork out the money. Three times the money we would have paid the street vendor.
When we get outside I call Little Bit. “Little Bit, momma just listened to her pride.”
“You did?!?” She looks up at me, face beaming. She is excited to hear it. I laugh.
“Yes. I did.” I tell her about how I rushed off from the vendor without asking for a discount, without giving him any further ado. I snubbed the man because he gave me the slightest injustice.
“That was pride talking and I listened. Because of it, I ended up paying three times more for my pineapple.”
By this time all the kids had huddled around me on the sidewalk in front of the grocery and were listening to my story. “Did you cry?” Little Bit asks. The question seems peculiar. Yet I remember it comes from one who has known the isolation and pain of pride firsthand. How many times has her pride held her back from joining in, from engaging, from being vulnerable, from attaching, from belonging?
Oh my, I do believe she has just realized pride hurts.
“I did not cry,” I tell her, “but my heart hurts in here.”
I tap my chest and inwardly I get low. “Oh Jesus, forgive me!”
Little Bit takes my hand. We begin to walk again. The other kids skip ahead, chewing sugar cane. Little Bit and I lag behind. She looks up at me. “Momma, I love you.”
God does give grace to the humble.
Grace to renounce the lies and the self-sufficiency. The self-righteousness. Grace to trust.
I look down into my Little Bit’s upturned face and smile. Right there on a dirty sidewalk at the backside of nowhere, two girls broken by pride are joined by humility.
We squeeze hands and smile and walk on.