When we got home from church yesterday, I changed into an over-sized T-shirt and told the kids: “I’m taking a nap. Do NOT wake me up unless someone is bleeding.”
I fell asleep within 15 minutes.
And then the doorbell started ringing. And someone kept knocking. And the kids, when they finally charged into the bedroom, said, “We can’t tell who it is, Mama. But he won’t leave.”
It was Stephen, a friend and photographer at the paper.
“Rick’s OK,” he said.
“He had a wreck. I can go get him if you need me to … ”
No. No. Oh my God. Let me call him. I’ll go.
Rick had tried to call me. But I was the liturgist on Sunday, so I’d muted my phone. Then, after church, I forgot to turn the volume back on.
I called Rick.
“It’s pretty bad,” he said.
My husband is a veteran photojournalist. If he says a wreck is bad, well … yeah. It’s probably pretty bad.
“I need you to come get me,” he said. “But don’t bring the kids. I don’t want them to see this.”
He was driving north on a state highway. A woman tried to cross that highway right in front of him. He swerved, but still hit her.
I got there and I looked at the truck and I looked at her car and I listened to the state trooper and all I could think was …
My husband hiked out of the desert without water and summoned help for me. He could have — hell, probably should have — died out there. But he survived that so that he could be killed by a Ford Fiesta? Really?
Last night, after Rick and I drank lots of alcohol and talked about how he couldn’t stop thinking about how he could have died in a stupid car wreck, I wrote a really mean and hateful post addressed to the woman who pulled out in front of my husband in her Ford Fiesta.
Honestly? I’m still mad at her. She just set me back six months where the whole near-death PTSD thing is concerned — just because she didn’t want to pause at a yield sign.
She almost killed herself and my husband. And for what? The ability to beat a Chevy Silverado traveling 60 mph on a highway?
Because that’s what it boils down to. She was pulling a beat-the-train move. Only instead of crossing tracks with a train coming, she was crossing a highway with a Chevy in sight.
And then a friend — someone I met only in the past year — messaged me and said, basically — “You’re better than this.”
As in — Don’t bash the woman in such a hateful, mean way. (People, I even made fun of her name. I was THAT mad.)
And then I went and looked her up on Facebook and it looks like she doesn’t have much in the way of family or a support system and I thought, I am such a bitch.
The thing about almost dying is that it makes you so incredibly aware of just how vulnerable we are. You can be hiking and taking pictures of cute little pink flowers and then be almost dead within 24 hours. Or you can be visiting your cousin in south Arkansas and run into a Ford Fiesta on the way home.
I think what most upset me is that Rick was in that part of the state because his cousin — one of the sweetest, most good-hearted men I’ve ever met — was just diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer.
So here’s Rick, on the way home, pondering mortality and his cousin and the desert and … WHAM. Near-death by Fiesta.
It’s OK if you laugh. Really. We’re journalists. Even I have to snicker at the thought that my Superman husband who hiked out of the Chihuahuan Desert to save my life almost damn near met his end due to a Fiesta. Sorry. Journalists need a morbid sense of humor to do what we do.
I think what got me is that I was all — Well, we’ve had our near-death experience in the desert. We should be cool for at least the next few years. I mean, what are the chances of nearly dying twice in less than a year?
And then you can Google the story about the two women hikers who were lost and saved and then accidentally drove their car into the water and drowned.
Surprisingly, one big-ass tragedy — or near tragedy — doesn’t mean you’re suddenly immune from potential death. Go figure.
Life is fragile, my friends. It’s precious. Enjoy it. Live it to its fullest.
But SLOW DOWN. Don’t be the Ford Fiesta headed on a collision course. Your kid gets a tardy? So what? He or she still alive to get it. You’re late to work? Meh. You hate rush hour and just want to get home? Well, focus on getting home safely.
Dear Woman in the Ford Fiesta: I know you that you couldn’t have known that we already almost died. And I know you didn’t have a death wish when you shot across the highway. At least, I hope not.
But please. You. And others like you.
Life is fragile. We are fragile. Slow down. Relax. Breathe.
We’re here for only a short time. Let’s not make it even shorter.
Most importantly, let’s make our few years here on Earth count.
p.s. I owe so much to my family and church family. We appreciate and love you. And, you, dear friend, who messaged me last night? Thank you. You reminded me of who I am and want to be. God bless you.
Surely by now you’ve seen Put on that Swimsuit, the ode to enjoying summertime happiness with your kids written by Jessica Turner on the Mom Creative blog, which hit the Huffington Post and went viral.
Swimsuits can be tough for mamas. Do I ever know this — remember, I’m the lady saddled with a saggy kangaroo pouch for a stomach and dozens of pregnancy pounds I can’t seem to shed.
I want you to know, though, that even I strap on the swimsuit and go for it. I’m not particularly proud of how I look — the definition of beached whale, in fact — but I can’t let that stop me and my kiddos from having summer fun. I’m not at the pool for a fashion show. I’m there to spend quality time with my girls and/or get some exercise.
Arkie Mama recently decided to go bikini and is loving it. Of course, she’s celebrating the fact that she’s still alive after a gut-wrenching, life-changing scare in the desert. And I also think about Lucky Mama and Aunt Jenn, whose battles with MS may someday present physical limitations.
Shouldn’t we all be appreciating life? None of us know how long we’ve got. What disease or disaster may steal moments away from us later. So let go. Live a little. Who cares what anyone else may think — you’re living for yourself, not them. No regrets.
And it won’t be the end of the world.
See that cute little toddler in the photo above? Now imagine a pair of snazzy pink and white sunglasses — that match her adorable gingham dress — perched on that wee freckled nose.
That’s what she was wearing, right down to those white sandals, the day I accidentally threw my trusting and precious child down the stairs.
Rick and I were living in San Antonio, working for the newspaper there. When we’d moved there in 2004, we settled for a rental, not wanting to buy a house until we became more familiar with the city. In 2005, a few months after our son was born, the four of us set out on multiple house-hunting expeditions.
Each Sunday, after church, we’d visit all of the open houses that caught our eye. One Sunday found us at a charming bungalow that had been fully renovated. A few things remained to be done — like adding a bannister to the steep, wooden staircase leading to the second floor.
On this particular home tour, Rick was toting our infant son in a carrier. So when I ventured upstairs, my 2-year-old daughter wanted to go too.
On the way back down, worried that she might fall, I insisted on carrying her.
NOTE: Stairs have NEVER been my friend. I have not only fallen down them, but UP them. Why on earth I thought I was better qualified than my toddler for a bannisterless descent is beyond me. Regardless …
I hoisted my little girl up onto my hip and started down. Which is when one of my cute, strappy sandals gave way. (Yes, the majority of my falling-down stories involve not only stairs, but ridiculous footwear.) Anyway, we weren’t even halfway down when that fickle sandal twisted and I stumbled.
As I lunged against the wall, trying to catch myself, Baby Girl was literally catapulted from my arms. I watched in horror as she hurtled forward, bouncing against each step.
So here’s Rick, strolling from the dining room into the living room. He sets the infant carrier down at the foot of the stairs to give his arm a rest.
Just then, he hears a thud. And then another thud. And then his daughter tumbles, head-over-heels, to his feet, sunglasses askew and eyes scrunched up in that pre-cry sort of way. Meanwhile, the thuds continue as I ping-pong from one wall to the other on my way down.
Rick was still leaning down to pick up our daughter when I landed at his feet. “Oh my God! What are you doing?!” he shrieked.
NOTE: This question has been shouted/screamed at me countless times when I have inexplicably stumbled or fallen down. I reference an incident in downtown Memphis, when a panicked photographer yelled that very question as I tripped over absolutely nothing and fell smack on my hands and knees. He had to hoist me up by my coat collar. I then staggered, bleeding, into a restaurant to clean myself up.
Despite the numerous times frantic people have inquired as to what I was doing, I have yet to produce an adequate answer.
So anyway, back to that Sunday: Rick has just watched his toddler AND wife roll down a staircase.
Baby Girl was fine. Startled and crying, but fine. I, on the other hand, had bruises from ankle to thigh. The next several days were misery as I hobbled from one place to another.
Still, every time I remembered my little girl curled up in a ball at the foot of the stairs — having been launched from her own mother’s arms — I cried. I thought of those little sunglasses sitting crooked on her nose and just wailed.
Again, she was fine. I’m the one who bore both the physical and emotional injuries.
This, my fellow mamas, is part of motherhood. We screw up. But then we pick ourselves up — and, ahem, sometimes our children — and carry on.
You will never, ever be a perfect mom. None of us will be. But, just like our children, we are a resilient lot, who, BECAUSE we love our babies so very much, will plant kisses on tiny, bloody knees and plaster countless Band-aids on boo-boos. We will listen to tales of friendships gone wrong and try to explain the many injustices in this world.
And we will forgive ourselves, knowing that our mistakes most often are the result of the best of intentions. The key is in remembering to bandage our own boo-boos — to ask for help when needed and to allow for a good cry now and then.
Then, just like our children, we’ll pick at those annoying, itchy scabs, and continue a journey that, while often marked by pain and sadness, leads us to sweet moments of indescribable joy.
So as someone who came within just a few hours of death — according to the doctors who got to deal with my severely dehydrated organs-shutting-down, “Gee, your kidneys have stopped working” and “There’s an ominous shadow on your lungs” and “You may have some heart issues” self — I can say this:
I am in no position to judge anyone.
As I lay dying — DYING, people, in the the desert and even in the hospital — I wasn’t worried about whether my gay friends were ruining the whole stupid romanticized and fictionalized Biblical concept of marriage. I didn’t concern myself with how legalized marijuana might totally corrupt our country.
I didn’t ponder the circumstances under which abortion should or shouldn’t be allowed.
Because really? It doesn’t matter what other people do or what they believe. It’s none of my or your business. God loves all of us. And because he loves us — AS WE ARE — he doesn’t expect us to judge our fellow human beings or to render “punishment” as we see fit.
We are all human. We are not God. We have NO RIGHT to judge ANYONE for what they do or what they believe. Period.
When I was out there, in the desert, I thought only about how I had lived. How I had loved. Whether or not I had been a good person.
Because, really? That’s all that matters.
Have you loved people for who they are, regardless of what you or they believe? Have you tried to help people, regardless of what you or they believe?
Are you kind? ARE. YOU. KIND?
Are you NICE to people?
Really, that’s all it comes down to. You can read the Bible from Genesis to the very, very end and the ONLY THING THAT MATTERS is whether you were a kind and good and non-judgmental person.
When I was sprawled out there, under that mesquite tree, I didn’t worry about anything but this:
Was I a kind and loving person? Did I use my talents for the better good?
That’s it, ya’ll. That’s what it comes down to.
What. Did. I. Do. To. Make. The. World. A. Better. Place.
Your hate, your condemnation, your ugliness? It means nothing. It’s not scoring you extra “Heaven” points. Sorry to disappoint. You just come across as an asshole. That’s all.
If you look at your friends and colleagues and strangers on the street with judging eyes and a judging heart — well, guess what?! YOU ARE NOT GOD. You don’t get to decide who is good or bad. You’re just an average, run-of-the-mill, sinful human being.
Sorry. But it’s true.
One day, when you find yourself facing your own mortality, you will realize that. And it may or may not be too late to rectify your thinking and your hateful, horrid actions.
We are asked to do one thing: Love one another. That’s all. We don’t have to point fingers. Or judge. Or tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong.
Because when you lay alone in the desert, and you realize that you are probably going to die, and you look at God and hear God and understand God — you totally understand that YOU ARE NOT GOD.
So get over yourself. Be kind.
Even now, seven months after getting lost in the Chiahuahuan desert, my body is a testament to our ordeal.
I’m still shedding needles.
Every time I think the last of them are gone, another blister forms and another teeny-tiny needle pops out. I’m beginning to think that I’ll still be plucking little cactus spines from my butt when I’m in my 80s.
My torso and thighs are dotted with purplish-red spots. These represent where the biggest needles were embedded.
My legs are a latticework of scars. My thighs and calves are criss-crossed with white lines. These are reminders of the cactus plants that scratched our legs without leaving needles behind.
And then there’s my left arm, which still bears the scars left by a three-inch, fixed-blade knife. Those scars show where I tried to cut into my veins, hoping to drink my own blood.
The strange thing is that I don’t find any of these scars ugly. I’m actually quite proud of them. They remind me of what I endured. They remind me that my body didn’t quit on me. They remind me that I survived, that I am here, that I am with my family and friends.
This year, for the first time in … I don’t know … ever, maybe … I bought a bikini. Not just one, but TWO.
I’m no longer in possession of a 20-year-old body. I’ve had two kids. One was born via an emergency C-section.
And the desert left an even more indelible marks on me. I’m scarred. Probably always will be. And not just physically.
But I’m proud of these scars. They are proof of strength. Proof of miracles. Proof of God’s mercy.
I don’t mind showing them off.
Several months ago, I went to my dermatologist for my annual checkup. I didn’t talk about the desert. And he didn’t bring it up. But I could tell that he knew. It was the way in which he traced the scars on my arms and legs. He was knowing, yet gentle. I almost felt he was paying homage to them.
Or maybe that’s just my own interpretation.
Because not a day passes that I don’t look at my scars and marvel over the fact that I am alive.
The marks all over my body may not be pretty. But they remind me that anything is possible, that some things just cannot be explained.
And I am so, so grateful.
When I transferred to the University of North Texas and moved away from home in 1990, I quit going to church.
While I have some wonderful recollections of my childhood/teenage church years, I also have a lot of bad ones. I grew up in a church that judged people. I grew up in a church that closed its Mother’s Day Out program because the “wrong people” were enrolling in it.
Only once did a black family attend Sunday services. And that’s the day a member up front said something racist.
My childhood church liked white people. It liked middle-class or affluent people. It reveled in sameness.
It had no pity for the poor. No compassion for those who struggled. No desire to throw open its doors and let anyone “different” enter.
I thank God for parents who DID care about those less fortunate. And who DIDN’T fear change or diversity. If not for them, that church might have tainted more than my memories.
Speaking of memories, my last recollection of that church is spring semester of my senior year in high school. Five of us were graduating. We’d grown up together. Four of us were going to the “appropriate” college — a private one associated with our denomination.
Me? I was headed to a public, state university. Oh yeah. I was totally a heathen.
For weeks, the young adults in our church told me I was wrong in my college choice. I remember sitting up late, sobbing, and asking my mom why a state school was so “wrong” or “bad.” I wanted to be a journalist. Shouldn’t I pick a university that would help me become one?
I will never, ever forget the Sunday that the pastor called my four friends up to the front of the church and gave them scholarships.
Me? I didn’t matter, even though I’d grown up in that church. I had chosen differently, and therefore, I was undeserving of a scholarship. A loving and non-judgmental church doesn’t make an 18-year-old kid feel worthless about going to college. I mean, really? It hurt my mom even more than me. After all, she’d been the church pianist there since I was a toddler.
Anyway, once I left home, I was done. No more church. No more judgements. No more haters.
Once I had kids, I tried out a few places. But none seemed to fit. Or rather, I didn’t fit in.
And then four years ago, I decided to become a Girl Scout troop leader. I found a co-leader. I had girls already assigned to my brand-new troop.
But we had no meeting place.
My co-leader, who lives in Argenta, suggested that I call First Presbyterian, which is located in Argenta.
I called. Left a message. And the pastor called me back and said, “Sure! We’d love to host you. When do you want to have your meetings?”
And just like that, I had a place for my girls.
Over time, I met the pastor, Anne Russ, in person. I met members of the church. I walked by their bulletin board every other week. I eavesdropped on congregants who showed up at odd hours and chatted just outside our meeting room.
I met the people who rented space from the church. Artists. The community booster club. The guy who ran a recording studio there. We talked.
I liked what I heard. And what I saw. This church welcomed everyone.
I also noticed that this church did a lot in the community. It wasn’t afraid of poor people or black people or gay people or transgendered or “different” people.
It just was. It was itself. It didn’t care about who walked in or what their “Christian qualifications” were. It was there and it accepted. Period.
Intrigued, I started going to the occasional service. I mentioned to the pastor that I might be kind of sort of interested in hearing more about First Pres.
I went to Wednesday-night Bible study — which was and still is held at Crush Wine Bar.
I made stealth appearances at a couple of church functions.
And then, in December 2012, my husband, children and I became members of First Presbyterian in Argenta.
There, we found acceptance. We made new friends. We could just go to church and just … be.
No judgements. No questions. No chastising.
I love that my church isn’t afraid to open its doors to the community. I love that it welcomes EVERYONE. I love that couples and families of all types are welcome. Divorced? Gay? Poor? Struggling? Doubtful? Agnostic? Atheist? Doesn’t matter.
I was 42 when we joined First Pres. So yeah. I quit church at age 20. And then I randomly stumbled across a church and liked it. Why? Because I spent three years watching from the wings. I spent three years watching members of this congregation and their pastor. I spent three years quietly assessing what I saw and heard.
These poor souls had no idea they were being watched. But what they did and said unknowingly is what made me want to become one of them.
A lot of churches out there are worrying about attracting new members or retaining current ones.
I can tell you — it doesn’t matter what your services are like. I don’t care about your in-house coffee shop or way-cool Kid Zone. It doesn’t matter how many members you have. It doesn’t matter what is said from the pulpit.
What matters to people like me is how you live. I don’t want to hear about your Christianity. I want to SEE it. I want to see you continue your sponsorship of Boy Scouts — because, I’m sorry, but what church casts out CHILDREN?
Only a church full of haters.
People like me, those who teetered on the brink for years — we want a church that is nice to people. We want a church that welcomes those who live in the area. We want a church that doesn’t judge us. We want a church that represents Jesus — one that isn’t afraid of those who are different.
So there you go. I’ve given you the blueprint for salvaging your congregation and attracting new members.
Stop judging people. Stop hating them. Stop condemning them and pointing fingers.
Jesus accepted people — lepers, prostitutes and thieves — as they were. And so should we.
When Rick and I decided that we would elope to Big Bend National Park in 2001, I told him I didn’t want an engagement ring.
“Just pick out a wedding ring,” I told him. “Nothing big or clunky. Just something simple.”
Which Rick did, with the help of my best friend Amy Webb.
The first time I laid eyes on that ring was on our wedding day, when he slipped it on my finger. It was an unusual style, with a small diamond set so that you could see all of the stone.
The only time I didn’t wear it was during my two pregnancies, when my fingers got too swollen.
So when we left for our vacation — which we all now know went disastrously awry — I wore my ring as usual. During my time alone in the desert, the ring fell off my finger. I groped around, but couldn’t find it. I was too weak to really look for it anyway.
When my rescuers arrived, I told them I lost my wedding ring. Immediately, several people began poking around the dirt and underneath my tree. No ring.
I was found at 11:45 a.m. mountain time. Once at the hospital in El Paso, I spent hours in the ER. No one could decide where to put me. My temperature was going haywire and I was in acute renal failure. One doctor told me they also were worried about my heart, lungs and liver.
It was around 9 or 9:30 p.m. before they admitted me to the telemetry unit.
When Rick arrived, someone was in the midst of asking about any valuables I might have.
“Well, the only thing would be her wedding ring,” he said.
Our friend Claudia, the reporter sent to be with me and write about what had happened, had to break the news.
“She lost it,” Claudia told him, cringing at the fleeting sadness she saw on his face. But Rick recovered quickly. We were alive. We were together. That’s what mattered most.
But when we got home, I cried and cried over the loss of that ring. It’s a silly thing, I know, given what we went through and what could have happened.
But that ring represented to me not just love, but the trust we have in each other.
I trusted him to pick it out for me.
He trusted me enough to marry me, even though his last marriage ended in divorce.
He trusted me to be a stepmother, even though I’d only ever cared for a dog.
I trusted him on assignments together, even while driving through downtown Houston as glass fell from skyscrapers. (Hurricane Ike.)
Over the years, we dealt with all of the issues involving blended families. We had another two children together. We juggled weird jobs with weird hours.
Our home was always busy with people coming and going. Four kids. Their friends. Our friends.
All of our family still live in Texas. But we’ve cultivated another sort of family in the newsroom. Other couples. Singles. Rick’s famous for his venison chili parties. And Amy, remember all those nights the three of us spent watching Sex & the City? Rick grilled steak, offered commentary on Samantha’s antics and then went bed while we sat up late and gossiped?)
On one occasion, when Rick and I had an argument, I went over to Amy’s to vent. “But ya’ll are the perfect couple,” she said. “That’s how I’ve always thought of you.”
And we are. We fit. I’ve always known that I can depend on Rick. He knows I will always be here.
That ring represented all of that.
In the desert, we faced the ultimate test of our marriage when I told him to leave me.
Best-case scenario: Rick would make it out, find help and I would be rescued.
Next-best-case scenario: Rick would make it out and the kids would have at least one of their parents.
Worst-case scenario: We would have done our damndest to save ourselves and return to our children.
I can’t imagine what Rick felt when I told him to go. I can’t imagine having to make that choice. But he knew I trusted him to get out of there. And he believed me when I told him I would wait for him.
When we went back to the state park in November, a kind game warden accompanied us to my little mesquite tree — the “tree of life,” yet another game warden called it — and helped us look for my ring.
When we got home, the first thing our daughter asked was, “Did you find Mama’s ring?”
“No,” we told her. “But we tried.”
She went into her bedroom and returned a few minutes later.
“Hold out your hand,” she ordered. Then she put one of her own rings on my finger.
And once again, I cried.
For Christmas, Rick bought me a wedding band. It’s simple. Looks vintage. This time I picked it out.
So yeah, there’s a ring on that finger again. And I know that in the coming years, it, too, will come to represent the love and trust we share.
But sometimes, I still feel the sting of knowing that my first ring — THE ring — lies somewhere in the desert…
… just a few hours’ drive from where Rick first put it on my finger.
Disclosure: This is my annual please-consider-volunteering-with-our-children post:
I get kids. And kids get me. Even as a teenager, the little ones flocked to me. Why? Because I feed off of their enthusiasm and their trust and their need. And because I remember all the stages: eager-to-please child, awkward middle-schooler, rebellious high-schooler. I can put myself back into any of those phases in a split second.
There is no greater gift than to be needed by a child. They look to us for advice, support and love. And when the babies looking up to you aren’t your own — well, the gift is even more precious.
Today, at our annual Girl Scout Milk & Cookies with the Mayor event, I was besieged by little girls asking if they could “help.”
This is the magical age, parents, when kids WANT to be given grown-up assignments or chores. I had little girls tripping over themselves to carry plates, take out trash and set up dishware. They want to do good. They want to feel responsible. They want to feel like they matter.
To be involved in their lives at this stage — it’s a gift. Seize it. Make the most of it. Because this is when we will have the most influence on their lives.
Today, I watched little girls make cards for another little girl who is critically ill in the hospital. I watched them listen with rapt attention as a former police chief and current chief of staff for the mayor told them how they — even at their young ages — can make a difference at their schools and in their communities.
A lot of you already volunteer — at schools, churches, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, sports teams, etc… Thank you.
If you don’t — please consider the opportunity before you. These little people are our future. What we teach them matters. And they do actually listen to us.
Yeah, I know. It takes time and hey — who has time? Well, actually, we all do. Or, rather, we all should, especially when it comes to caring for and teaching our children.
You say you’re too busy caring for your own family. Please consider that there are a lot of kids out there who don’t live in the kind of family that you do. They don’t have a parent or parents like you. We send them off to school and expect our teachers to fill that role. Our teachers cannot be a parent to every child who needs them to be one. That’s where we come in.
These children need you. They want you. And if you let them in and lead them … well, these are the wee ones who will prove to be the most loyal and determined bunch of kids you’ve ever encountered.
As a reporter, what I’ve noticed over the years is this: The people you would think to be the most cynical or hardened — police officers, judges, journalists or attorneys — are the ones who are most eager to get out in the community and work with kids.
That’s because despite all of the bad things we see, we’re still just a bunch of idealists. We know better than anyone that there is only a small and fleeting period during which you can effect change.
So yeah, that’s great if you enroll your kids in Scouts or take them to church or whatever. But it takes a multitude of adults to help just one child.
So, please. Get out there. Volunteer. Lead. You have more to offer than you can possibly ever know.
This morning, the older children at our church (hello, First Presbyterian-Argenta peeps!) performed in a Christmas pageant.
The little ones — the toddler/pre-K set — also were tapped to participate. Toward the end of the play, these tots were supposed to gather at the manger with presents for baby Jesus.
So at this morning’s service, all of the littles who normally would be in the nursery occupied a couple of rows in the sanctuary. You could feel their excitement. Big-people church! We’re in here with the cool kids!
Once the service started, the wandering began, with our pre-K kiddos exiting pews, roaming the aisles and, in one case, taking the stage during a mom’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” — which btw, is one of my faves. I adore Dolly.
But the best moment was when a little girl — the same one who followed her guitar-playing, singing mom onstage — hopped right back up there when we were listening to a song about Mary and Joseph.
It was totally awesome for many reasons.
For one, I love the fact that the youngest members of our church feel comfortable enough to wander the sanctuary and take the stage. They’re not intimidated at all, and that’s because they know they’re in a place that radiates love and acceptance.
Also, I think Jesus probably appreciates such an enthusiastic response to his birthday. “Let the little children come to me,” he said. Well, this morning, they did.
But most moving to me — even while I was laughing over some of the antics — is the joy that emanates from our youngest members. We’re talking about delight in its purest form. And hey, that kind of happiness should be the predominant emotion this time of year. These little ones get it. And their enthusiasm is contagious.
I know there are some churches where this morning’s impromptu dancing and wandering and singing would be frowned upon.
I’m just so thankful that ours is one that revels in what the little people bring to our services.
Because this morning’s service was just amazing. And, I’m betting, it was most certainly Jesus-approved.
This year, my Girl Scout troop participated as volunteers at the North Little Rock Police Department’s annual Shop with a Cop event.
We leaders try to teach the girls the importance of getting involved in their communities. I hoped this would serve as good example of what even little girls can do to make a difference.
But it was I who left most humbled.
For those who don’t know how Shop with a Cop works — This year, each child was given a gift card with $200 and assigned to an officer and other volunteers who helped him or her shop for the entire family. The children also picked out gifts for themselves.
Right before the crowd of officers and children took off with their shopping baskets, however, there was an announcement: Every child also would be able to pick out a bicycle and helmet.
Upon hearing this, an 11-year-old boy in front of me thrust his arms into the air, looked up at the ceiling and said, “Yes!!! Thank you!”
Clearly, this kid wanted a bicycle.
But there was more to the announcement: If the kids already had bikes, they would instead receive an extra $100 for their shopping.
My daughter was assigned to help this little boy. This is what she told me later:
“He picked out a bike and helmet, but then at the last minute he took them back so that he could use the extra $100 to help buy his grandmother a tablet.”
Having seen that kid’s reaction to the bike announcement, I knew that he was making a sacrifice.
“Wow,” I said to my daughter. “That was really sweet.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “It was. He also bought his mom a really pretty necklace with a cross on it.”
Earlier, I had watched a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, approach the gift-wrapping station with her basketful of presents. The volunteer who’d helped her shop, patted the little girl on the shoulder.
“You’ll have to give them the necklace so that they can wrap it, honey,” she said.
The little girl solemnly handed over a tiny box.
“It’s for her mom,” the volunteer to the woman who was gift-wrapping. “She hasn’t let go of it.”
I watched as a baby doll and other presents meant for a little girl were wrapped. But the young recipient didn’t pay any attention to the toys. She focused instead on the woman who was swiftly packaging the jewelry box in decorative paper.
Once done, the woman started to put it back in the basket.
The little girl shook her head and held out her hand.
Smiling, the gift-wrapper gently placed the present in the child’s small, upturned palm.
I thought of the mother who will receive that necklace.
And I thought of how —so often — those among us with the least, often give the most.