I took the boys to the splash pad recently to have some time with their friends there. Often when we go we find ourselves in the presence of the splash pad bully.
Here's what you need to know about the splash pad:
1. It is designed to be a fun place to cool off in the summer heat, primarily for younger kids who aren't able to go to the pool.
2. There are a lot of fountains and sprinklers and other things out of which water bubbles up or drips down.
3. There are also to nozzles (like on a fire hose) from which the users can douse each other liberally. They also pivot, providing a decent range in which to douse other people.
The splash pad bully is a kid much older than any of the other kids there. He positions himself at one of the nozzles and doesn't move. He has manipulated the pivot point enough that it shoots beyond its intended range--now able to reach into some of the lounge chairs where parents are watching their children from. He is indiscriminate in his targets: parents, toddlers, grandparents, babies, probably even small puppies with big eyes if they were allowed inside the fence.
Yes, if you're at the splash pad, you have to expect to get wet. I can't blame the kid for spraying other people. But at some point a kids needs to be shown boundaries: he needs to be taught why it's not okay for a twelve-year old to knock a toddler down with a stream of water. He also needs to be taught to share, that he can't just hog the nozzle during the duration of his visit to the splash pad.
I'm all for raising kids to be able to enjoy their neighborhood (a mom has a blog about raising Free Range Kids). But in order to have kids that you can trust to behave on your own I've never seen his parents around--at least, if they are around, they do nothing to correct his behavior. Other parents usually step in and ask the kid not to squirt them or to be mindful of the younger kids. But he seldom heeds their requests--at least not for long.
Now I know I'm making this event out to be bigger than it is. The truth is everyone still has fun. Anders actually liked it when the kid squirted him in the face. A few people who wanted to be dry got wetter than they wanted; a few babies may have cried for a short time, but they moved on and had fun.
The kid reminds me, though, that I can sometimes overstep boundaries in something that's enjoyable for me, but doesn't become enjoyable for someone else. Our culture often admonishes us to make ourselves happy and not worry about anyone else.
Scripture tells us differently. Our own happiness is good, but it should never come at the cost of others. God constantly tells us to seek justice and take care of the needs of those who need it--especially the orphan, the widow and the alien among us. Our western culture often puts us in a place of privilege (which is not a bad thing), but we must make sure that we aren't parking ourselves there and ignoring the needs of those around us. God raises people up so that they may help those who are still in the pit--in places where they can't help themselves get out of. Let's not just sit at the nozzle all day, hosing down everyone within reach (unless, of course, they're really hot and that's what they need).