Every Monday night Mormons have this peculiar tradition called Family Home Evening. We gather the children together, sing some songs, say a prayer, attempt to teach a moral principle in terms comprehensible to all of the age groups present, have an activity and a treat.
Every Monday, the burning questions for those under the age of twelve are always, "What's the activity?" and "What's the treat?"
This week I made cookie dough–the ploy being to answer both questions at once–and I was prepared when the six-year-old began his weekly interrogation.
"We are going to play checkers with sugar cookies," I told him. "Little ones, like this. And if you jump the other guy, you get to eat the cookie."
I expected excitement, joy–acquiescence in the very least.
I did not expect a full-fledged tantrum.
"That's dumb!" he exploded, scowling. Tears threatening.
"Why is that dumb?"
"I won't get any!"
"Um. Well. There are lots of cookies and I'm sure you'll get–"
"But everyone else will get more than me!"
Who thinks like that? My son, apparently. I remember doing this when I was a kid, playing this game, and the burning concern was not How many cookies is my older brother eating? but I might get a cookie! Hooray!
Realizing he was hot and tired and probably hungry, and really hoping I don't actually have a sociopath on my hands, I attempted to tease him out of his post-school-bus-ride funk by asking if we should just throw the cookie dough out and clip our toenails for an activity instead.
He insisted that this was my best idea yet.
I've been mulling over this conversation. This propensity toward selfishness. But today I rather think the motivating factor is fear, isn't it?
I'm not going to try, because everyone else is so much better than me, that I'm certain to fail and I'm certain to fail so miserably that the resulting humiliation is going to crush all the joy out of any crumb of success I might achieve.
Who thinks like that?
Oh, I do. I do, I do.
Maybe it's fear as much as pride that comes before the fall–or just a really boring session of group toenail clipping.
Boyd K. Packer once said that faith "is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and step into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two."
I want to have that kind of faith. And when it's just me stepping out into the dark, I think I do–I'll stride forward without a second thought. It's when I've got others in tow that I find myself at the edge of the unknown, paralyzed with fear. I'll go through all sorts of contortions in order to avoid inconveniencing or endangering someone else on my journey.
But then maybe nobody gets the cookie, you know?