Some people have an innate gift with children. My friend Tracy and I were having coffee at a local restaurant and at the table next to us there was an adorable yet rascally little girl seated with her mother. The angelic strawberry blonde curls failed to mask the mischief in her eyes as she repeatedly pushed her drink off the table’s edge. The young Mom was as patient as a saint, repeatedly picking up and replacing the drink, only for the act to be repeated again with more gusto.
I have raised ten children, eight of them through this stage. I was tolerant and hid a smile but was willing to ignore it. The Mom was dealing with it better than I would have. But Tracy, an experienced elementary school educator made eye contact, then spoke animatedly with the little girl and her Mom. After a few minutes’ interruption of our coffee-time, the angel was restored to good behavior and the Mom was visibly thankful. Whether skill or experience, compassion or caring, Tracy was a gift to them.
How many of us go that extra mile? Some of us may not have the calling or skill in a particular instance, but we can watch for those who do, and we can wish for the good of others. I know that when we are in church and a child is raising a tantrum, the parent desperate, I pray so very hard for them. I have been there many times, sometimes vowing that I wouldn’t return to church until they were years-older. But there we were the next day, or the next Sunday. I know that hundreds of sermons drifted around and over my stressed-out head.
Least helpful were snorts of disapproval or bland stares. One elderly woman tried to make a case at church that there should always be a cry-room and that church was not the place for children. Thankfully, there was a cry-room to take inconsolable children, but the pastor disagreed and said that he wanted families together in church. Years later at a church we visited, the pastor stopped the service momentarily to address the parents of crying babies. He said not to feel flustered as this is what babies did. “Tend to their needs, and let’s all rejoice in the sound of life and of family and of Christians attending church despite difficulties.” Wow. Clearly, I’ve always remembered that.
Our own new priest has made a point to say that our being in church to worship is all about Jesus and Jesus welcomed children. He has incorporated baptisms and other sacramental events into the Sunday Masses. A few weeks ago our special needs daughter had her first communion and it was beautiful. Everyone gathered afterward to celebrate with us. I made a cake.
Some might say that she didn’t understand what was going on, but we believe she did.