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08/27/2010

The Mailman also had to earn kids' trust

by Jeremy Hooper

There in the playroom, lil' Kenny had a chance to play nice. But instead, he chose to help destroy the bridge. Because of this, many Matchbox cars were left stranded. Worthy action figures couldn't cross over to the other side. Bridal Barbie has one option, regardless of her personal manufacturing. And while "I doo" was something that some of the younger kids might say as they made in their diapers, Kenny's actions had helped keep the phrase's phonetic cousin from reaching far too many chatty Cathys . All because Kenny joined the team that grabbed on to the gay G.I. Joe's rights and wouldn't Lego. Traded off on the golden rule, instead creating flyers and signs adorned with hetero-only golden rings.

But like most tantrums, Kenny's didn't last. Bigger and cooler heads, who had been downstairs distracted by spinning foxes and Janet Jackson's breast, eventually started to hear the shouts from the kids that Kenny was hurting. Up they rushed, not distracted by limb or ball, to see the hell of a reality that he who cut his teeth 201008271055sometime between '00-08 had wrought. Some prominent adults in dark robes stepped in, determining that Kenny's blown-out bridge had, in fact, broken the rules. Other adults in street clothes joined in agreement. Then at a slow but undeniably increasing pace, a majority of the other local parents also began to see that the bridge that was in construction would've hurt absolutely no on, but that lil' Kenny's actions toward said construction had divided the playroom in ways that fly in the face of good and fair order. As the body of adults began to poll themselves, the favor was obviously breaking on behalf of the kids who'd been quietly working towards progress. The crayon on the wall was clear.

Suddenly lil' Kenny, either by his own volition or by the force of the changing winds in the room, flew into the closet and slammed the door. And a funny thing happened to him there. For the first time in years, he took a breath. He searched within. With a newfound clarity, he thought of how to make things better. Pondered his next move.

After some time, sensing that the air in the room had become more accepting, Kenny bust out of that closet with a dramatic flurry. "I was wrong!" he confessed. "I was acting out and I'm sorry" was his apology. "I'm ready to help clean up the mess" was his offer. "Let me prove myself to you" was his plea. "I ate some bad berries from the bush, and they affected my state of mind!"

The other kids, who'd been working so hard for so long to complete the bridge so that they could move on to other projects, all looked at each other, confused and somewhat annoyed by what they were hearing. Regardless of their personal hunger level, they had known to avoid the bush's berries. They had read the rules. They had understood why the berries would stain. So while they were happy in one sense that Kenny had renounced his act of possession at the hands of those berries, and while they were certainly thrilled that he hadn't chosen to just stay and grow up in that closet, the reality is that there was still one big ass bridge sitting in the middle of the room, 10x more unfinished than it might've been without Kenny's acting out.

"Oh, you're gonna help us all right!" one of the kids uttered. "That's a demand," another added.

"But Kenny," one of the adults chimed in, "You're also still grounded, my dear. Big time!"

The other kids looked at each other, mostly agreeing that the punishment was fair. A combination of labor and doghouse-iness. Brick by brick (or more likely in his case, Lincoln log by Lincoln log), Kenny was gonna get the chance to prove his sincerity. But at the same time, he'd have to expect some dirty looks and snarky comments. Because lil' Jeremy has several scrapes. Lil' Pam has many wounds. Lil' Mike, the first to note that there was a colorful coat in the closet with Kenny's name on it, doesn't yet trust that his right-handed acquaintance is even able to do right by him. Because all that time that lil' Kenny was tearing down the bridge's building blocks, it wasn't just the path itself that suffered damage -- the other children were also being hit by shrapnel from all kinds of angles. Collectively, the other children were Mr. Boddy's forehead -- and lil' Kenny chose to throw the wrench, even if the game on the table was actually a Clue-less round of moral monopoly. The unabashed reality is that it's going to take some time to forgive that.

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