It is not a secret that 6-year-old Alex is the biggest for King & Country fan in the 46774 zip code by a vast margin.
Believe me, he takes this title and its inherent responsibilities very seriously.
As some of you may recall, last fall I experienced a full week of his wrath when Alex gave me the cold shoulder.
The silent treatment.
The evil eye.
The reason? No biggie, at least in my mind–I booked the Sidewalk Prophets for the first Faith & Family Night at the New Haven Canal Days Festival.
In Alex’s mind, however, it was the end of the world because I had betrayed him in the worst possible by way by not booking for King & Country. (In my defense, for King & Country wasn’t available when I inquired.)
In the days leading up to Faith & Family Night, Alex made it clear that he planned to make his dissatisfaction with me known to the Sidewalk Prophets in no uncertain terms as soon as they arrived in New Haven.
To put it mildly, I was living in a state of sheer terror about what Alex was going to say/do for the entire week leading up to Saturday. For those of you who know Alex, you know exactly what I mean.
I decided my best plan would be to find a secure location to lock Alex up, leave him with a day’s supply of food and water, and a porta potty. (Just kidding. That thought never crossed my mind.)
My next best option was to take him out to the farm and leave him with Grandma and Grandpa for the day. No one, including Grandma or Grandpa, was going to go for that one.
Plan C was bribing the Police Chief to baby-sit (and by baby-sit, I would have totally gone for handcuffing him to the Chief’s golf cart while he was on patrol all day) for $100 and 2 VIP Wristbands to the concert, but since he had already watched Alex once this week, I was flat-out of luck.
I knew I was just going to have to bite the bullet and hope Alex didn’t do what he does best– that is, say the most hilariously inappropriate things at exactly the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) moment.
Saturday morning started out well enough. Alex was busy over at the parade, and I hadn’t seen him anywhere near the Main Stage all morning. I was starting to relax, and think that maybe, just maybe Alex would be so busy having fun he’d forget all about the for King & Country/Sidewalk Prophets debacle of days gone by and just enjoy the beautiful day in the park.
I should have known better.
Shortly after 12 pm out of the corner of my right eye I see Alex running like a freight train straight towards me from the direction of the park, and out of the corner of my left eye I see Dave from the Sidewalk Prophets emerging from the Park Hill Center.
Alex and Dave are headed straight towards one another.
Uh oh, I think to myself; this probably isn’t going to end well.
Dave sees Alex approaching and holds up a banana from the hospitality cart. “This is a hold up,” Dave says, turning the banana in Alex’s direction. “My name is Dave. What’s your name, buddy?”
“Alex,” he replied, and I could tell he was trying really hard not to smile at Dave’s banana antics.
“What grade are you in?” Dave asked.
“Gonna be in 1st grade,” Alex said. “Are you one of those Sidewalk Prophets guys?” Alex asked, his eyebrows furrowed like he was interrogating a suspect in a criminal investigation.
“Yep, I am,” Dave laughed.
“You should join a real band like for King & Country,” Alex said.
And there it was.
Of course, I apologized profusely, and tried to explain Alex’s obsession with for King & Country (but really, how do you explain something like that? I mean, there are literally no words to describe it.)
“So, do you play the drums? I have a drum set and cymbals just like Luke & Joel,” Alex told Dave. “I even have suspenders just like Joel!” added Alex proudly.
“Nope,” said Dave, “I’m the singer.”
“Luke and Joel are singers too,” said Alex. “They’re the best singers in the whole wide world!”
Dave is laughing, I’m looking for the nearest hole in the ground to crawl into and die, while Alex is beaming with pride because he’s talking about the one subject on earth he’s a certifiable expert in, his favorite band of blokes, for King & Country.
Luckily for me, Alex’s attention was easily diverted when I slipped him $8 and pointed him in the direction of the park. He ran off to go get his face painted like a cheetah, sparing me for the foreseeable future from any more embarrassing moments related to his for King & Country fanaticism.
Meanwhile, while Alex was being transformed into a cheetah, I went to track down the afternoon entertainment for the Main Stage, the magician ‘The Great Andini’. My hope was that he would be able to use me in his act and make me disappear, like, permanently.
Alas, since The Great Andini was not able to make me permanently disappear, I was available to drive 1/2 of the Sidewalk Prophets in the minivan I borrowed from my Mom to the 909 Room for a pre-show meet and greet at 2:30 pm. Of course, Dave ended up stuck with me (I’m sure he was thrilled about that!), along with Justin, Cal, and the band’s road manager, Duncan. I tried to explain the whole Alex/for King & Country situation by, well, blaming it on for King & Country. (Well, it is kind of their fault! They made Alex a really nice, totally unexpected video message, and took time to personally meet him and just be exceedingly kind to him. So, yes, I feel totally justified by blaming it entirely on for King & Country. No one has every accused me of being an overly logical and rational person.)
Listening to my own explanation in the van made it pretty clear, at least in my own mind, where Alex gets his mad public speaking skills from.
The 909 Room meet and greet ended up being another legendary fiasco in a string of legendary fiascos on Saturday; granted this one was not entirely my fault. My BFF Sarah and I somehow managed to rock Plan B, and all was well in the world for a few minutes…..until, after everyone had gone through the line, Dave looked at me and asked, “Hey, where’s Alex at?”
“Um, he wanted to go to the Magic Show back at the Main Stage…you know, the whole for King & Country thing.”
Of all the dumb things to say, I had to come up with that. I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake. At the very least, I could have come up with something interesting, like he was kidnapped by an army of evil clowns on the Midway who were holding him ransom for face paint and giant squeaky shoes or maybe he joined the carnival and is now the youngest person in Guinness Book of World Records history to ever operate the giant spinning bear ride on the Burton Brothers Midway.
Anything that didn’t have to do with for King & Country would have sufficed.
Fast forward to the middle of the Sidewalk Prophets show later on Saturday night.
I’m hanging out with my lighting gurus, Nate and Chad, backstage. Alex is sitting on my lap, intently watching what is going on up on the stage.
Alex turns his head towards me, his blue eyes soft and wide, and he whispers, “Mommy, can Dave join for King & Country’s band?”
“No, Alex. Dave is a Sidewalk Prophet. He has a special place in that band, just like Luke and Joel have a special place in for King & Country.”
“Mommy, I think I like Dave anyway, even though he’s not in for King & Country. He’s just as nice as Luke and Joel, and he sings really good, too,” said Alex.
I totally agree.
Then, from the stage Dave began talking about how God sometimes uses the broken and the least likely people around to do some of the greatest things for His kingdom. This was a new part of the Sidewalk Prophets set that I had not heard before, and I really liked it. Dave mentioned names from the Bible such as Mary Magdalene and David, but the one name that he spoke of that really struck me was Moses. As he talked about Moses, a man who was one of the truly great leaders in the Bible, he said that Moses was unlikely to ever be a great leader because he was a stutterer.
I watched as Alex sat riveted, watching Dave talk about Moses and how God used Him even though he wasn’t perfect, and how He can use each one of us not in spite of our flaws, but because of our flaws.
I’m quite certain this caught Alex’s attention because this is not just Moses’ story. This is Alex’s story, too.
You see, when Alex was three years old, it became apparent that he had a serious speech disfluency, also referred to as a stutter. When the children in his preschool class started to make derogatory comments about how Alex talked, he shut down and completely stopped talking for an extended period of time.
He began therapy and while he has made great strides in his fluency over the years, it remains something that he is very aware of and has to work very hard at overcoming on a daily basis. I’d be lying if I said Alex didn’t battle with his speech at times, and the pain and frustration and anxiety I know he feels being different from the other kids is heart wrenching. It pains me to see him struggle, to have to work so hard to do something that comes so easily for most of us.
Last week was especially tough for Alex, because the hard ‘C’ sound in ‘Canal’ days is a very difficult one for him to make smoothly, and he told me several times in frustration, “Mommy, I’m having a hard time with my speech today! Why did God have to make me so different, Mom?”
I wasn’t sure Alex really listened when I told him why I thought he was uniquely and wonderfully made; however, there was no doubt in my mind that he was hanging on to every single word Dave said on Saturday night from the Canal Days Main Stage.
My heart was full when, after listening to Dave talk about Moses, Alex whispered in my ear, “Mommy, I’m just like Moses! Does that mean Dave is talking about me?”
“I think he was talking about all of us, ” I said with a smile, giving him a hug, “but maybe especially about you, sweetheart.”
Alex beamed and threw his arms around my neck.
After the concert, I was chatting with the Sidewalk Prophets fans who were waiting in the signing line to meet the band when Alex came running over to me waving his arms in the air.
“Mommy, Mommy!” he said excitedly, “Can Dave sign this for me?”
Alex held out his most prized possession, his autographed for King & Country ‘Crave’ CD. He listens to it on repeat, he sleeps with it, he takes it with him to school; and now he wanted the Sidewalk Prophets to sign it.
“Alex, that might not be such a good idea,” I said gently. “We’ll buy you a Sidewalk Prophets CD, and they can sign one of their own CDs for you.”
“But Mommy, Dave and the Sidewalk Prophets are my favorites just like Luke and Joel,” said Alex. “Can’t they all be friends on the same CD?”
“Yes, they can, but since you like the Sidewalk Prophets wouldn’t you like one of their CDs?” I asked.
Alex smiled and nodded his head.
A few minutes later, Alex was tearing into his very own copy of Live Like That with a big grin on his face. When it was his turn to approach the signing table, he marched right up to Dave and plopped his CD down on the table in front of him.
“Hi Alex,” said Dave. “How are you doing, buddy?”
For a fleeting moment, Alex was shy. This has happened maybe twice in his lifetime.
“Go ahead, tell him what you told me earlier,” I said encouragingly.
“You’re my favorite, Dave,” said Alex shyly. “I like you AND for King & Country.”
I’m not sure Dave realized what an epically big compliment this was, but I did.
Big deal. Very big deal.
A little later on, I was able to thank Dave for that part of the concert when he talked about Moses and explain about what that meant to Alex.
“That’s God working,” he said humbly, “but I didn’t notice anything unusual about Alex’s speech?”
I explained a little more about Alex’s prognosis and therapy. “That’s awesome,” said Dave, referring to how well Alex has done with his therapy. Then, Dave shared that he had devised a little plan of his own to surprise Alex for his birthday that may, in fact, rival the video messages of for King & Country. (Not that this is a competition or anything, because it really isn’t.)
This made me remember something that Dave talked about when I interviewed him back in April. The basis for the Sidewalk Prophets current project, Live Like That, was a verse in Hebrews 12:1 that says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” During the interview, Dave spoke freely about the amazing cloud of witnesses that influenced his life as boy growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana.
It occurred to me that at just 6 years of age, God has already been working for several years now to surround Alex with his own cloud of witnesses, preparing him to run with perseverance the race of his life that is still largely before him. In a world where so many kids don’t even have a father, we are so blessed that Alex is being influenced by so many men of strong Christian faith, like Luke & Joel of for King and Country and Dave Frey of the Sidewalk Prophets, and by public servants like firefighter Josh Hale and Police Chief Poiry, by Pastor Matt and Alex’s Uncle Phil, by his father Jon and his grandfathers, to name just a few.
Blessed kind of seems like the understatement of the century.
Yet, blessed we are that so many people who cross our paths are living a life like that, and it doesn’t really matter if they are fans of the Sidewalk Prophets or for King & Country or The City Harmonic (another story for an entirely different day!) All I know is, when I see the Lukes and Joels and Daves and Joshes and Steves and Matts and Phils of the world showing kindness to my sometimes snarky 6-year-old with a speech impediment, I can’t help but think of the verse in John 13:35 when Jesus tells us “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
If you’re a fan of Jesus, if you love Him and love His people, then you should know that Alex & I are YOUR biggest fans!
Just one question…where can we get a t-shirt?