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Those Juniors, Part 7: Natural Phenomena, Part 3

by Eric B. Hare

Crude Sense of Humor

Let us hope that the crude sense of humor seen in children is the seed of the sunshine of optimism in later life. Otherwise this sense (rather, nonsense) would seem to defy all attempts to be harnessed, and we would take note of it only in order to avoid it. For in the least-expected place, at the most inappropriate times, something tickles their fancy, and they giggle and laugh.

It may be some little mannerism, some little slip of the tongue, some spontaneous gesture, but the children see in it something the teacher never, never intended, and off they go into a riot of laughter. You can hardly blame the children, however, if the teacher, in drawing a house on the board, puts the door in the middle, a window on each side, and some steps at the bottom, and then John nudges Bill and whispers behind his hand, “Oh, look at the funny old face. He! He!”

Some time ago I was asked to tell the kindergarten children of the Eagle Rock Sabbath school a story. There were about thirty of them in a circle with their teachers and a visitor or two sitting on the outside. And I had a lovely story, just their size, about a little boy and a dog. And I was telling it for all I was worth. The youngsters were opening their eyes and mouths. It was just perfect. But just outside that ring of enraptured kindergarteners sat a little cradle roller, and when in the course of my story, I said, “Bow-wow-wow,” like the little dog, it struck his funny bone, and he wriggled his arms and legs and cackled and crowed in delight. His raucous laughter stole the show. Every eye in the room was on him. I began to get hot. I waved my hands, walked around a little, and kept right on. I got the eyes back again, but by this time the cradle roller, who wasn’t getting the story at all, came to the conclusion that I was just there to amuse him, and he cackled and laughed at every movement. I began to wipe the perspiration from my brow, and tried bravely to carry on, but the climax soon came when, pointing his chubby, slobbery finger at me, and looking up into his mother’s face, he called out, “Funny! funny!” In agony I tried once more to get the attention, but it was useless. I finished up as quickly as I could, while the little kindergarteners looked at me, then the little boy, then me, then the little boy, and joined in the laugh. I made a hasty retreat, and, figuratively speaking, collapsed outside the door.

There’s nothing much we can do about it, except to see that our children are grouped as carefully as possible, then be as cautious as we can in our preparation, that we may avoid anything that will stir up this ugly specter of the crude sense of humor.


Two Main Types of Children

Our objective study of children also reveals the fact that there are two main types of children—
  1.  Motor (active).
  2. Sensory (quiet).

The motor children are quick to respond, quick to learn, quick to forget, quick to get angry, quick to repent. The sensory children take more time to respond, they are slow to learn, slow to forget, slow to get angry, but also slow to repent. Personally, I’m glad God made both kinds.

But God has not only made both types, He has also permitted every conceivable combination of these two types, so that the same individual can be part motor and part sensory, more motor and less sensory, or more sensory and less motor. And this greatly complicates our problem.

One more observation I wish to point out here in conclusion, both discouraging and encouraging. The same boy who may be part sensory and part motor can also be ten different kinds of boy. For a boy varies according to the association he is in. Johnnie is one kind of boy with his father, another kind of boy with his mother. He is a different Johnnie in school, still different at play, at work, with bigger boys, or with smaller boys. You wouldn’t recognize Johnnie at junior camp. He springs out of bed when the bugle blows and is dressed in five minutes, combs his own hair, makes his own bed, sticks his chest out when the counselor calls, “Atten-tion.” No—no, I didn’t say he washed behind his ears, but on Sabbath, when his mother comes to visit, in an instant he changes. Mother has to wash his face and comb his hair, and the Johnnie who stood up so straight with his chest out now sits down beside Mother with his head in her lap, so he can feel Mother’s fingers going through his hair.

Oh, yes, I’ve seen them, and I wouldn’t change the picture a bit. I would only use it to help mothers see why they should leave the cradle roll room as soon as the child can possibly be left alone, and to throw this challenge before every leader and worker for the young: What kind of Johnnie do you want Johnnie to be when he’s with you?

In San Diego one day I saw a miracle. Mr. Miller, who was teaching at one of the big public schools, invited me to come and speak to the student assembly on my being bombed out of Burma. I arrived early during a recess period and was introduced to Principal Oaks. “You have a large school,” I said, as we strolled toward the auditorium.

“And the toughest one in San Diego,” he replied. “I’ve just been doing police duty during recess; we all take turns. You see, we have everybody here. Now and then the police come and take off some of the toughest, for shop breaking, and stealing, and holding people up.”

“But they are not all like that! You have good ones too.”

“Of course—oh, yes, of course,” he agreed; then conversation became impossible as we entered the hallway. For the assembly bell had just rung, and nine hundred big boys and big girls with big feet and big mouths were going to the auditorium. The band was going to play, too, and as the band boys went along, they tooted their horns and banged the drum. I began to feel weak all over, and, turning toward Principal Oaks, I cupped my hands to my mouth and shouted in his ear, “Have you a loud-speaker?”

“No,” he yelled back, “come this way.” Down the aisle to the platform we went, up the stairs behind the curtain. What a sight! Through the crack in the curtain I could see them, standing, jumping, running, on the seats, over the seats, pushing, shouting, fighting, joking, shooting paper wads.

“How could any mortal speak?” I began to think, and just then I saw Mr. Oaks at my side snap to attention, square his shoulders, and look straight ahead. I knew how to do that, too, so I straightened up beside him. A signal—and the curtain slowly parted, revealing their principal standing at attention, under perfect self- control. There was no whistle, no command, but a wave of silence, starting from the band pit, swept right over that auditorium, away up into the gallery in less than a minute. He made an announcement or two, then introduced “the man from Burma, St. Johns ambulance driver during the battle of Rangoon.”

Bedlam let loose. They yelled; they clapped; they whistled. It was impossible to utter a sound. Then I remembered; I took two paces forward, snapped to attention, and it worked like magic. I spoke to those nine hundred high school students with no more strain than if I were addressing a handful. It’s true. Our actions and life are reflected in the lives of our boys and girls.

And now, with these interesting observations for a foundation, let us discover some of the secrets in the art of junior evangelism.

(Next week: “Which Comes First?”)

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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