It isn’t fair. It just isn’t fair at all! Raymond thought as he saw his brother, Joey, coming out the back door. Why does he always have to hang around me? He walked quickly around the side of the house, hoping that Joey hadn’t seen him. But Joey followed him and said “Hi, Raymond. Want to play?”
“No,” Raymond answered. “Now go back in the house.” The last thing that Raymond needed was a four-year-old brother tagging along. He turned his back on Joey and walked away.
Joey stood and watched as his big brother walked across the front lawn to the sidewalk. He knew that Raymond was looking for his friends so that they could play baseball. Joey followed him at a distance, a little closer when Raymond crossed the street and knocked on Pete’s door. Pete was Raymond’s best friend. Pete came to the door, and the two older boys set off for the ball diamond at the park. Joey followed along. Pete and Raymond reached the park and met three other friends. As they took their positions on the field, Raymond noticed Joey standing quietly by first base. “Joey, you shouldn’t have followed us! Mom will be worried. Now go home!” he hollered in his maddest, big-brother voice.
Joey stood still. “I can’t go home,” he said quietly. “Mom won’t let me cross the street by myself.”
Raymond knew that he would have to take Joey home. He wanted to stay and play ball with his friends, but he knew how worried his mother would be when she couldn’t find Joey. Grabbing Joey’s hand and pulling him along, he muttered something under his breath.
“What?” said Joey. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I said that you are a horrible little pest. Sometimes I wish that you had never been born!”
As soon as the words were out of Raymond’s mouth, he was sorry. He saw Joey’s soft brown eyes fill with shiny tears. Then he remembered his friends playing ball without him, and he pulled harder on Joey’s arm. “Hurry up!” he scolded. “I don’t want to be stuck with you all day!”
They crossed the street to their house, Raymond pulling and Joey crying.
“There,” Raymond said. “Now, go into the house, like I told you.”
Joey wiped his eyes and went up the walk.
Raymond ran back across the street and down to the park. He took his place in the outfield. At last he was rid of the horrible little pest. But he could still hear his own angry words, “I wish that you had never been born!” His stomach felt funny just remembering them.
The ball came his way. He caught it and threw it back to Pete at home plate. “Easy out!” he yelled.
Pete laughed and tossed the ball up to hit it again. Raymond watched the ball as it made an arc to the other side of the field. In his mind, he heard the words echo, … never been born! “I didn’t really mean it,” Raymond muttered softly. He felt that funny feeling in his stomach again and wondered if Joey knew that he hadn’t meant it.
He continued practicing with his friends, but it wasn’t as much fun as he thought that it would be. He felt more and more uncomfortable. Finally he threw Pete’s mitt to him and yelled, “Gotta go.”
“But we were going to play for another hour or so,” Pete said. “How come you have to go?”
“I just have to go,” Raymond said, and he began running toward home, pausing only to check for cars before he crossed the street. Reaching his house, he hurried to the kitchen, where his mother was getting things out to fix dinner. She looked at him and said, “How was practice?”
“OK, I guess.” He wondered why mothers always looked at you as though they knew what you were thinking. Is it my guilty conscience, or does she know the mean things that I said to Joey this morning? “Where’s Joey?” he asked, trying to sound casual.
“In his room, playing, I think.” She sounded as though she didn’t know what had happened, and yet Raymond couldn’t bear to look at her.
He went down the hall to Joey’s room, promising himself that he would play whatever Joey wanted to play. But when he looked into the room, Joey lay curled up on his bed, fast asleep, with his teddy bear in his arms and tearstains on his cheeks.
The things that he had shouted at Joey that morning still echoed in Raymond’s mind as he went to his own room and lay on his bed. He almost wished that he were young enough to have a teddy bear of his own to hug. He wondered what he could do to make things better.
Slipping off the bed and onto his knees, Raymond folded his arms and bowed his head and said, “Heavenly Father, today I said some mean things to Joey. I made him cry. It made me feel bad too. I really didn’t mean what I said. Please help me to know how to make him feel better. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Raymond lay back down on his bed, thinking hard. Finally he knew what he could do. He jumped up, went over to his desk, and searched quickly through the clutter for a pencil and a piece of paper. He drew a picture of a tall boy on one end of the paper. On the other end he drew a picture of a shorter boy. Under the tall boy he wrote Raymond; under the short boy he printed Joey. Each boy was wearing a baseball mitt, and a baseball was in the air between the two boys. When he was finished, he folded the picture and wrote on the outside, “Joey, I love you. Raymond.”
He crept into Joey’s room and laid the note on Joey’s pillow. Then he went back to his own room to wait for Joey to wake up and find the note. Lying there, he whispered a quiet “Thank you” to his Heavenly Father. He felt lighter and happier inside.
In a few minutes Joey walked into his room. “Raymond?” he said in a little voice.
“Hi, pal!” Raymond replied. “I’m sorry I yelled at you before. I didn’t mean what I said. Want to go out in the yard and play catch with me?”
“I thought that you were playing with Pete and the other guys.”
“Well, I was,” said Raymond, “but right now, I want to play ball with my favorite little brother.”