I remember the night I learned not to be a tattletale.
One Sunday night at church, when I was all of four or five years old, I did the unthinkable. I opened my eyes during the closing prayer. Even more brazen, I lifted my head and there, a few rows in front of me over to the left, stood Stevie MacFarland, with his grandparents.
Now I didn’t know Stevie really well because he was older than I was, but everybody knew who he was. He was the red-haired kid who lived with his grandparents and he was a rounder. After I witnessed what he was doing there in the pew, I knew instantly that all the other stories must be true.
Because Stevie MacFarland was standing there during the closing prayer with his eyes wide open, not even blinking, staring right at the man who was praying from the pulpit. Stevie just stood there with his head held high, not the least bit ashamed that he wasn’t praying right. And his poor grandparents both had their heads bowed and their eyes shut, so they were clueless as to their grandson’s callous disregard for the rules of praying.
When you’re little they teach you to pray by bowing your head, closing your eyes, and folding your hands together. The more your fingers are intertwined, the better. Like God doesn’t hear your prayer if you don’t go through that ritual. When the truth is, they just tell you that to keep you quiet and less distracted.
But I didn’t know that.
What I did know was that Stevie had clearly broken the rules. I had seen it with my own eyes and someone had to know.
So on the way home from church, sitting between my parents in the front seat of the car – no car seats in those days – I decided I would inform my mother.
As though I were revealing something for his own good, I announced, “Stevie MacFarland had his eyes open during the prayer.”
And without batting an eye my mother shot back, “How did you know?”
I was convinced she was the smartest person on earth.