It had already been a long day, but we promised. So at 7pm, when normally we’d be on a family walk (if it had been a good day) or heading for bath time early (if I had not been such a good day), we loaded up the car and proceeded on to the “fish store”.
Cohen was sure he knew exactly what he needed and which fish he wanted, but since David nor I had ever had a fish tank, we asked for help. A young woman came right to our rescue, explaining how we needed to set up our tank to keep the fish healthy and what kinds of fish would be good to start with (and were also not easy to kill). Apparently, there’s a lot more to fish tanks than I had ever imagined. Don’t you just throw some water in and wish Mr. Goldfish luck? Hmm…maybe that’s why so many goldfish get flushed down toilets and replaced while the kiddos are at school.
In between all of her explaining and the two of us tag teaming the inevitable chase-Adler-around the-store task, the brown haired girl offered to write down the instructions. She probably noticed that our attention was split between her suggestions and our overly tired and silly tot. She started to write and then getting flustered. “I’m sorry,” she said, “My mom had to go back to the hospital this week and my thoughts just aren’t here.”
Turns out her mom had a brain aneurism in January and since then its been one very serious complication after another. She said she was taking care of her younger brothers and working and trying to keep things as normal as they can be when the mom of the family is in critical care an hour away. We told her we’d be praying, she smiled slightly and said thanks. Then one of us had to grab Adler to keep his fingers from getting bit off by a parrot (the “fish store” doesn’t just have fish) and the other one helped Cohen lug the fish and supplies out to the van.
I couldn’t get that brown haired, blue eyed college kid out of my mind. I knew even as I listened to her story, that God wanted me to do something. I didn’t know what, but I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that she was the one who offered to help us that evening. I remembered on Sunday morning her face and that unmistakable feeling and I told David I wanted to do something. He asked what I felt I should do and we brainstormed a short list and left it at that once we arrived at church.
After church I was headed to a rare just-me-and-him lunch with my dad. I quickly got David and the boys lunch and then I remembered again. I grabbed a card and I knew in that moment what was supposed to go in it. As I was writing in the card, my ever nosy 6 year old wandered by the kitchen island. “What are you doing, Mom?” I told him that I was writing a card. “For who?” He asked and then a silly grin crossed over his face and he said in that playfully taunting, school boy way, “For Dad, right?” I laughed. “Not this time.” And I reminded him of the girl from the fish store and did he remember how she said her mom was sick? He did. “Why are you writing to her?” I explained further.
And then it happened.
The questioning eyes that are almost never satisfied with an answer, softened. I saw on his face a look I’ve not seen before… and trust me, this boy has a million expressions, all with their own meanings. His lips parted and he just looked at me, like we were frozen in time for 30 seconds (that’s a long pause for Co). His often shrill, loud voice was calm. “That’s really nice, Mom.”
He asked for the pen and grabbed a scrap piece of paper and laid down on the kitchen floor and began to doodle. I bent down. “What are you drawing?” He smiled a happy, proud smile I know well. “My fish tank she helped me with. See? There’s the cave and the sea shell and over here is my panda sucker fish and right here’s…”
When he had finished, he fold it up small so it would fit into the envelope, put it in, kissed me goodbye and he was off again.
I was, then, the one standing frozen in time. I was struck by how often I forget to include him in those “nice” things because I’m just trying to remember to get it done before I forget again. I felt near tears to have seen a deeper understanding of what it means to be kind in his countenance. It almost felt like the veil had been peeled back so I could see it take root. Thankfulness rushed over me, leaving behind goose bumps on my arms.
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the back step while the kids played in the yard. It was one of those deliciously sunny days transformed out of a cool, crisp morning. I grabbed a book to read, a book of interviews with Mother Teresa. Its one of those books I pick up every once in awhile and read a little of this or a little of that.
I read the commentary in the beginning where the transcriber had written a little about his impressions of Mother Teresa. She didn’t want an biography written about her, so he was taking just a small space to share his obvious affection of this holy woman he’d had the privilege to meet. I have never read that part before.
Describing how she had left her convent in a better part of India to live with the poorest of the poor, the author writes, “I should add, this is something that she accepts [living with and serving the most destitute and sick people] in the same unquestioningly way that a peasant accepts the weather or sailors a storm at sea. It would never occur to her to challenge it.”
I closed the book. I sat in the sun and watched the kids and my heart was wrung inside my chest. That kind of love…that kind of grasp on grace and what Jesus willingly did for me…that unquestioning acceptance to do whatever He asks…that’s the kind of expression I want my faith to have. My son may only be 6, but that’s the kind of graciousness and generosity of heart that I pray God will grow in him.
I wish I could say I was always quick to act on those heart tugs. That envelope? It was a small obedience that took only a moment.We won’t all be the ones to go overseas or to hold the poor in the last hours of their life, but we will all be called on Jesus to love our neighbors. What Mother Teresa is often quoted as saying, is true.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Today God has reminded me repeatedly in the last few days of two truths that go hand in hand.
” Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?]And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
“Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Blessings my friends who are also parents and my friends who will be.