There’s a big guy with a gun in front of my sons’ school.

My sons go to a parochial school in a community that has recently beefed up security. A nearby school was threatened by a man wielding a three-foot metal pipe, banging on school windows and saying “I want to get into the building to hurt some girls!” The parent body of my sons’ school actually collected donations to hire a security guard to protect against such incidents.

Of course, my boys think that the guard is the coolest guy on earth. After all, he has a gun. And a uniform. He’s like, a policeman, or something. Protecting them against the bad guys.

That’s what they see. What I see is a very caring man, who despite his beweaponed exterior finds time to wave to the kids who are in awe of him as they drive by. He even helped me safely navigate out of a busy parking lot a couple of times. More importantly, he has put his safety on the line to protect our kids.

So on the way out from school one day, I rolled down the windows as we drove past, letting the kids in our carpool shout a big “THANK YOU!” to the big guy with the gun. He gave our car a big smile and waved at the kids. And on the way home, we talked about what a great job he does and how grateful we should be to him for protecting the school.

Hot Cocoa for the Big Guys - #LittleLionChallenge

As time went on, I noticed that the job of a security guard wasn’t quite as glorious as it might seem. Come snow and sleet and pouring rain, carpool must go on. Which means that the big guy with the gun must stand on alert while braving frigid temperatures and struggling to see through the sheets of rain…all to keep our kids safe.

So when I heard that Little Lion Challenge Day was coming up, I knew what I wanted to do. We had continued waving to him and thanking him periodically, but I wanted to do something more. I wanted to gift him with a steaming cup of hot cocoa to take the edge off the biting wind on a cold winter day. I hoped that my kids would be as excited about the idea as I was.

Luckily, they were even more excited than I’d expected! They tossed down some cereal and milk this morning, and raced downstairs to write their “thank you notes.” My six year old’s letter read:

Dear Security,
Thank you for protecting us and TA [his school]. You should be able to work for TA for years and years.
Love, Doniel

My four year old asked me how to spell each word in his letter. Unfortunately, right now he prefers to squeeze each word between other words, wherever he can find space for it. Yes, I knew that the guard wouldn’t be able to read his letter, but I also knew that the message would come through. For the record, his letter reads:

Dear Security,
Thank you for making sure no boy gets hit.

(He decorated his letter with the letters “TA,” his school’s initials. His picture shows cars backing out with kids nearby — the main hazard that he believes the security guard needs to protect against.)

Hot Cocoa for the Big Guys - #LittleLionChallenge

In the rush of carpool this morning, we pulled up alongside the guard and offered him our hot cocoa, our letters, and our thanks.

I hope that in addition to warming his hands this morning, we were able to warm his heart as well.