Three young children, all varying ages under seven were vying for the attention of their parents and getting nowhere fast. As I got closer it was apparent they'd been ignored for some time, and were getting desperate. Finally the oldest, a boy about five or six, ran up to the cart, jumped up on the side, and straining over the edge of the basket, grabbed a gallon of apple juice and threw it onto the ground.
The DVD kiosk was close by, so I stopped in front of it entirely unwilling to miss out on the events that were unfolding before me. What happened next was astonishing. The boy quickly followed the gallon of juice to the floor and laid down on the big square tiling, his head right next to the purchase. When his Dad leaned over to pick up the juice his son sat up, wrapped his arms around his father's neck and said in his little southern accent "Dad, I need to tell you something. Dana needs a diaper change." The Dad stood up and peeled his son's arms from around him and said "don't you throw anything on the ground or you'll get smacked. Mom'll change her in the car" and he put the juice back in the cart.
Over and over the kids had tried to get their parents' attention. Something was wrong. In their little minds, there were really important matters at hand, an emergency even. But who they were, their size, the usual noise volume they kept at had drowned out the importance of their problems, and completely understandably so. Then, in a moment of brilliance the oldest child did something extreme that he knew would first, get his father's attention, and second, bring his Dad down literally to his level forcing him to have to interact with his son and hear what he had to say, important to him or not.
The son set aside the risk of punishment for what he did because he was looking for the results of his actions, not the cost. He put his toddler sister's needs before himself, laid on the floor, and did what was necessary to make sure she would be taken care of, because in his young mind, he couldn't be certain.
Standing there at the 99 cents a night film rental kiosk, I watched one of the most vivid, astonishing and aggressive displays of leadership I've seen in a long time come from someone four times younger than I am.
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