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Robert's Choice

Children's Story
Even after being warned that Herod was out to kill him, Jesus was still determined to go to Jerusalem. Was this his own free choice, or was he propelled in some way? Did he choose to follow what he thought was God's will, or because he was both God and man, was his choice taken from him?

This is a story about Robert, who felt he had no choice in a particular situation. But the consequences of his actions were such that he realised we humans always have free will, but must exercise it responsibly.

The four boys were dancing in a circle around Robert. They had their hands tucked under their armpits and were flapping their arms up and down like wings, and squawking and clucking like hens.

"Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!" they began to chant, until Robert felt tears begin to prickle behind his eyes.

"Shut up!" he shouted angrily. "I'm not chicken, I'm not! I'm not scared of anything."

But they only chanted all the louder, and whirled faster and faster until Robert wanted to cover his eyes and his ears with his hands.

"All right!" he shouted at last. "All right, I'll do it! But I think you're all mad and it's a stupid thing to do, so there!"

The boys grinned at each other and spread out on the kerb on either side of Robert.

"Here you go," said the biggest boy. "There's a car coming now. Not too soon, mind. It won't count if you go too soon."

Robert held his breath and prayed he wouldn't slip. He was relieved to see the car wasn't going too fast. When it was about fifteen metres away, he darted across the road. There was a slight screech of brakes, and he turned in time to see an angry face glaring at him, as the car shot past. Robert let out his breath in a long sigh and laughed with relief. His heart was hammering against his ribs, but it hadn't been as bad as he thought.

The other boys sauntered across the road. "Not bad for a first attempt," said one, and Robert felt a swell of pride. "No problem," he said jauntily. "It's no big deal. I can do it any time."

The five of them spent the rest of the afternoon playing chicken across the road, daring each other to leave it later and later before they ran. Robert felt exhilarated, really alive. This was fun! And he was just as good as any of the others.

He looked at his watch. Nearly tea time. "One last go," he called. And as he spotted a car in the distance, he added, "This one's mine!"

He was determined to make this the most exciting run ever. He waited and waited crouched ready for the dash, until he felt the tension of the other boys and heard them draw in their breath and the car was really close, then he tore across the road. He just made it! The car screeched loudly and swerved violently as the driver slammed on the brakes, and Robert laughed out loud. But a loud bang and a crash followed the screech, and Robert's laughter froze.

The car was crumpled silently against a lamppost. "Run!" hissed one of the boys, and Robert didn't wait for a second glance. He took to his heels. He didn't stop until he reached home. Nobody was in, so he switched on the television and sat in front of it. But he couldn't concentrate. He found he was shaking all over. All he could see was a blue car, crumpled against a lamppost. He wondered and wondered about the driver, and found himself praying the driver wasn't dead. He knew he should have stopped, or gone to offer first-aid like he'd been taught in the Cubs, and he felt deeply ashamed and very frightened.

It was ages before Robert's Mum came in, and when she did, she looked pale and worried. "What's the matter?" asked Robert, dread in his heart.

His Mum gave him a hug. "I don't want you to worry," she said, "but Gran's had a nasty accident in her car. She's in the hospital."

As Robert pictured his Gran's blue car, he felt as though an axe had hit him. "Can I see her?" he asked anxiously.

His Mum nodded. "We'll go tonight."

Robert's Gran had her leg strung up in a kind of sling, and a large bandage on her arm. There was a tube coming out of one hand, attached to a bottle of blood. She looked very pale, and kind of old and frail. But she managed a smile when she saw Robert and his Mum.

After a while, Robert's Mum went out to find a cup of tea. Robert sidled over to his Gran, and held her hand tightly. He was nearly in tears.

His Gran began to speak, in a funny, croaky whisper. Robert had to put his ear close to her mouth to hear what she was saying. "Why did you do it, love?" she asked.

A tear escaped and rolled down Robert's cheek. "The others made me," he said miserably. "I didn't mean to hurt anyone, especially you. I never thought there'd be an accident."

"Robert, " said his Gran. " Nobody can make you do anything. You always have a choice. You could have chosen to let them laugh at you, and chosen not to play their silly games. God gave us free will, so we can always choose what we do. But we have to learn to choose responsibly." Then she winked at Robert and ruffled his hair with her free hand. "It takes more than that to kill off a tough old bird like me," she added, with a smile.

Robert threw his arms around her and hugged her. "You will be alright, won't you?" he asked.

Gran nodded. "I'll be out in a couple of days, and raring to go."

Deep inside himself, Robert said a big thank you to God. Suddenly he knew he'd grown up a bit. For now he knew he'd never let anybody choose for him ever again.

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