Last week, near the end of a kids' lacrosse game in Brentwood, Tenn., my son took a hard hit and immediately fell to the ground, clutching his arm.
As he lay there writhing in pain — he took a stick to the elbow — the other players "took a knee." It's a custom in lacrosse, soccer and some other youth sports to kneel when another player gets injured.
Taking a knee teaches respect. Opponents can be talking trash one minute and showing concern for an opponent the next.
My son turned out to be OK except for a swollen elbow, but the incident made me think of how kneeling is underrated. When we kneel we are humble yet upright, resting yet alert. It's a good position from which to pray, laugh or whisper to a child.
For those of us who are full of ourselves, kneeling is a sigh of submission to a higher authority, of living outside ourselves.
For the past few days I've been keeping a mental diary of times when I felt the impulse to take a knee.
- While on a video shoot for an auto review last week, a monarch butterfly lit on the back our red BMW test car.
"Maybe it's a dead actress who has come back to life as a butterfly," I joked to the photographer.
For the next 30 minutes, wherever the photographer went, the butterfly followed — to the side of the SUV, behind the SUV, inside the SUV. The episode quickly went from funny to curious to weird.
Note to self: When awed by nature, take a knee.
- Later that day, while I was walking to my 9-year-old's school for his afternoon pickup, I saw two boys running home on the sidewalk. One boy was bigger and faster, and the gap between the two grew and grew.
The trailing boy, exasperated, began shouting: "Pause! Pause! Pause!"
Notice, not yelling "Stop!" but "Pause!"
At first I was puzzled, and then it hit me: "stop" is analog, "pause" is digital. A child of the Digital Age was understandably exhorting his brother to "pause."
I smiled and began to chuckle.
Note to self: When struck by irony, take a knee.
- Last Sunday, after a soccer tournament in which my 9-year-old son's team lost three in a row, he walked up to me with his head down. I immediately took him aside and knelt beside him.
"Look," I said, "I know it's hard to lose three games in a row, but you gave that last game every ounce of your energy. I'm proud of you, son. Really, I am."
Then, as an afterthought, I added, "And, in case you were wondering, you are just as good as your big brother was at your age."
Apparently, those were the magic words. A smile returned to his face, and we headed over to the shaved-ice stand for a post-game snack.
Note to self: When whispering to a child, take a knee.
In a book about mid-life, I read that our brains change as we age. People between ages 40 and 60 — I'm at the end of that span — begin to lose mental focus.
We lose the ability to concentrate and our default mental state becomes a kind of fuzzy, stream-of-conscious thinking. Maybe that's why I'm distracted so easily.
I notice this problem during worship services. My mind tends to wander from the Bible message to something more pedestrian, like: What's for lunch?
When I drop to a knee at the alter, though, my field of vision narrows, my mind slows down, and a sense of gratefulness floods in.
Note to self: When praising the Maker, take a knee.