My younger brother observed the two three-year-old boys chasing a ray of sunlight in the room and thought it was blog worthy. Actually, that’s not totally accurate. He thought the picture would make a good sermon illustration. In fact, bless his heart, he is always sharing good sermon illustrations with me. Perhaps he has the mindset that if he does his part, sooner or later my sermons will get better. In the interim, he and a host of others patiently wait. The point he made is that we are drawn to the light.
While I don’t discount his observation or his theology, the point I want to highlight in today’s blog is a little subtler and one often taken for granted. It has to do with the gift of life. Nothing is more precious than children. In addition, nothing is more refreshing than the innocence of childhood.
The oldest three of the five children present at our reunion this year were three-years-old. There was a brother and sister twin-combination along with their eleven-month-old sister. In addition, the other three-year-old-boy had a two-year-old first-cousin that is a girl. Actually I took some great pictures of the kids playing together. It then occurred to me that I probably should get permission from their parents before I opted to display one in my blog. Consequently, I’m playing it safe and sticking with the sunshine.
I watched them play and interact as though they were meant to be together. Isn’t that true of any group of two and three year olds? They had no idea that they were distantly related. None of that mattered. Yet, they clustered together and played with a sense of wellbeing as though their connection was destined to happen.
The three siblings present are the grandchildren of one of my cousins. The two first cousins are my brother’s grandchildren. Cute kids – everyone! I watched them and I saw them for who they are. The are adorable, loveable, precious and full of life with a sense of well-being. Both my cousin and my brother were older when they experienced the joy of being grandparents. As for myself, being a grandfather is old hat for me. My oldest granddaughter turned thirteen this week. Consequently, I’m a decade into grand parenting and they are just getting started. I am thrilled for them. Being a grandparent is a source of real joy.
Our family reunion was short on children this year. For one thing, school had started and the school age children who fill the role of grandchildren for me and most of my other cousins who were present had sports related obligations to fulfill. Not being a sports enthusiast, that is a stretch for me, but I get it. If you’re on the team, you’re obligated to be present.
Getting back to the small children playing together at one end of the room, I watched them with a sense of gratitude for the parents they were given. All are responsible, nurturing and focused on meeting the needs of their children. Did I mention, you don’t always find that?
How many three year olds have I seen who live with a sense of chronic fear and a history of unmet needs? One of the saddest cases I can recall was a two year old in a full body cast. He was placed in the emergency shelter where I work following his discharge from the hospital. I remember the listless look on his face and the absence of light in his eyes when he first came into our care. Within three weeks, he was a different kid. He was still in a full body cast, but his eyes sparkled and tracked your movement as you crossed the room. He had discovered laughter and had perfected the ability to smile. His only downfall was having a mother who preferred the nightlife with a boyfriend who was brutally abusive.
At the family reunion on Saturday, I saw the five children for who they are. They are a gift from God. They are a source of genuine joy. As I shifted my focus and looked in my brother’s direction, he was actively engaged in conversation. Actually, he appeared to be doing most of the talking as two of my cousins listened. However, both of them are also pretty verbal. They would have no difficulty managing to get a word in edge-wise.
I looked at the three men and then I looked back at the small children. I had the thought that day-before-yesterday all of us as cousins were very much like the small children before me. Since that time, our lives have been enriched from the friendship and on-going contact with each other. Early on, we discovered the joy of shared time with extended family. Honestly, my mother and her siblings were very close. That connection held fast throughout their lives. Consequently, it stands to reason that she’d pass on that same sense of priority to her children.
How does life go by so quickly? Today is my son’s birthday. If I did the math correctly, he is forty-five years old today. How can that be possible? I just turned forty-five the other day. It really wasn’t that long ago.
I mentioned one of my uncles in a recent blog. I remember his concern when my grandpa purchased a fishing boat. Grandpa was fifty-years-old at the time. From my uncle’s perspective, it was an irresponsible thing for Grandpa to do. It was his position that: “A fifty-year-old man had no business owning a boat. That’s how people drown”.
My grandfather obviously was easier to deal with than I will ever be. When my uncle objected, Grandpa sold the boat. I don’t remember Grandpa fishing, but he had a croquet court next to their home. It became the gathering place for him and his cronies to share on an afternoon. I’m not sure why at the age of fifty, you’d be retired, but Grandpa was as well as many of his friends.
Like the five small children who are kin, my cousins and I have also been gifted with parents who were responsible and caring. That gift had been passed on to them from their parents. Consequently, the debt of gratitude goes way back up the family line.
Somehow in the midst of life, somewhere between early childhood and adulthood, we lost our innocence but we had the sense that we were loved even if we were imperfect. Don’t get me wrong, I also didn’t have perfect parents. Yet, I can truthfully say, “I had parents who loved me.” I can also can say that: “My parents didn’t have perfect children. Ronnie and Larry were a mess”. Yet, all kidding aside, the two of them did a better job of meeting family expectations than I did. If my mother were still living, she’d tell you I was hardheaded. She’d probably express it like this: “Donnie liked to do things his way.” The General will tell you the same thing. Not that it matters, but I still do.
All My Best!