One Saturday a few weeks ago, I faced a choice. I was exhausted. We all have those weekends that beg for a slow Sunday morning. I, however, am a volunteer.
I love Sundays because I love seeing the kids I teach. First graders never fail to amaze me with their opinions and growing intellect.
And God had me go for a reason. I felt like I needed to. And I can tell you this: God doesn’t move you to action for no reason.
Only one child showed up for our group. That’s it. She arrived about six minutes before we had to go to large group. Her name was Annie and it was her very first time. I found out that she plays softball, swims, and does ballet. And by the way she talked, I gathered pretty quickly that she was a bright young girl who was not afraid to talk to me. She told me that she liked math and that her favorite thing to do was draw. So draw we did.
In large group, the message was on uniqueness. It was all about celebrating our differences, and how those differences could be used to make a difference. Near the end of the talk, she turned to me and said, “If everybody didn’t have differences, we would all just be the same.”
I agreed with her and we laughed about how boring it would be to constantly run into people just like yourself. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how much wisdom had just came out of this first grader’s mouth. She took the lesson and made up her own application. Not all kids do that, and very few voice it out loud if they do. This is why later, when our activity was to pick out sticker labels that described us, I wasn’t surprised when she chose the word “brave” to put down on her paper first. Kind, honest, and patient followed. She seemed to know exactly who she was.
Everyone has a story that sets them apart. Through further conversation, she ended up telling me that her father had died, and how she had her mother and two older siblings at home.
What I thought I knew and understood about this girl changed in an instant. I tried to imagine her scenario, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say other than, “I’m sorry.” The words felt weak and inadequate as they rolled off my tongue. What could I possibly say to soothe any of this? But now, looking back, I see that it wasn’t my job to resolve the matter. The simple act of having fun and being there for her was what she needed in that moment. It was an act of love. An act that I’m grateful God woke me up to experience.
Because I did not just meet Annie. I met her mother, who I now knew had lost her husband. And this perspective opened up a wonderful conversation with her. As Annie finished her beautiful drawing (she insisted on adding a fish to the pond at the last minute, an artistic decision that gave me time to speak with her mom.) I told her how I absolutely loved what I did each Sunday. I also explained how I had been working with a lot of these children since they were four years old. She commented on how cool that must be to see them grow up. I agreed and said that they grew up so fast. She then asked my name.
Isn’t it interesting how quickly one thing leads to another? One minute I’m a stranger. The next I have a story and a name. Investing in people is investing in life, and it’s moments like these where I see that truth in action. This is why showing up every week matters.
So let this be a lesson to myself and to anybody else reading this: always make the trip. Set the alarm. Get up. Go.
Besides, fatigue can always be combatted by lots of coffee.
Author: Lauren Pearson