When I took Josiah for a stroll around Asheville’s nature center a week ago, I had no idea so much would happen to me. Who knew I’d commiserate with Sassy, a raccoon with a hair loss problem? And there was more.
I didn’t even tell you about my brush with the Holy, thanks to a three year old I’d never met before who was throwing a huge fit. I thought our encounter was interesting and nice and slightly notable- but then Jesus/God/the Spirit/my own imagination (or all four) whispered into my ear about it during worship on Palm Sunday, and now I’m pretty sure that what happened is more than slightly notable- at least it is to me. May I share?
So Josiah and I had just chatted with the otters (actually I had done all the chatting- Josiah and the otters just sat there observing me- as if I were the animal at the zoo!) and then we hung out in the petting area for a few minutes. That’s where I took this photo of Josiah as he struggled to understand what exactly donkeys are and I struggled with an intense urge to put that photo on Instagram with the caption, Josiah learns to deal with smart asses. I had a nice little laugh to myself but then decided that kids might see it and maybe that might seem unseemly for a children’s minister. So I’m sharing it here. Sometimes I crack myself up.
Anyway, after touring around the sheep and goats, we headed to see the bobcats. Josiah is just starting to say things that sound like words, and one of his first ones includes something that sounds like KEEKA, for kitty cat, of which he has two at home, one normal cat named Nala and one bizarro giant kitty named Aslan who is always falling off of things and trying to get in my lap.
So we were pushing our way up the hill to see the wild bobcat version of Aslan and Nala when I heard another wild animal– a young human kind.
“NO NO NO NO!” it shrieked from around the bend in the path. It was a little boy, maybe three years old, bent at the waist, hiding one hand like a candy bar he didn’t want to share. His mother leaned over him.
“Let me see it, Thomas. Let Mommy see it.”
“NO NO NO!!!” he screamed and cried as if the world had canceled chicken nuggets.
“A BAND-AID!” he squealed. “A BAND-AID! I gots to have a band aid!”
“Mommy doesn’t have a band-aid honey. Just let me see it.”
“NO NO NO! You gots to have one!”
“I won’t touch it. Mommy just wants to look. See, I’ll put my hands behind my back!”
“NO NO NO!” he said, spinning around. He became one with the ground. “I gots to have a band-aid! I NEED ONE!”
As we approached, I gave the mom my best look that says “I’m sorry, I’ve had stubborn children too and I feel your pain.” (Josiah gave them a look that says, “Interesting. I will file this away.”)
That’s when Thomas had endured enough. He sat up and folded his arms and deepened his voice to sound as much like a bear as was possible for a three year old. “YOU GOTS TO GIVE ME A BAND-AID!!!!!! NOW.”
“I don’t have one. See! Mommy’s purse doesn’t have one. But maybe they have one in the office. Let’s go see. But you have to get up and walk.”
I gave the mama another sympathetic smile as I walked past, just to show solidarity.
“BUT I NEED ONE RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW”
Poor little guy. Poor mama. It will get better, Mama.
“BUT I CAN’T WALK TO THE OFFICE. I CAN’T DO IT, MAMA.”
Poor mama. Poor Thomas. If only there was a service to help mamas in need. A AAA for child repair.
And then the thought struck me. I HAVE A BAND-AID!
I could be the AAA!
I parked the stroller and opened my purse. Was it still there? My Michelin Man husband had given me a pack of Michelin Band-Aids, each one decorated with Mr. Bib’s puffy marshmallow head, though at the time I had told him thanks but no thanks. “I’m a children’s minister, honey.” I said. “I always have a first aid kit with me anytime I take kids anywhere.” But Todd had looked so disappointed that I had thanked him and stuck them in my purse, just in case.
In Case had arrived!
The band-aids were still there!
“Sorry,” the mama said as I turned around and approached, as if I were about to make a citizen’s arrest for baby whining.
“No, I have a band-aid,” I said.”May I give it to you?’
“LOOK THOMAS LOOK! OUR FRIEND HAS A BAND-AID!”
Our friend? How nice! I was OUR FRIEND!
“He is bleeding a little,” she explained. “But not enough to justify this,” she said, waiving her finger around his sweet face.
I nodded. “Sometimes you just gotta have a band-aid.”
“Look Thomas! See! Our new friend heard your voice and came to our rescue! ”
A feeling of joy swept through me. A simple band-aid in my purse made me a super hero!
The mama was not done. “What do you say to our new friend?”
“Frank you,” he said, swallowing tears.
It was the best moment of the morning.
Thomas and his mom popped into my head during worship the next day, a few moments after our children had paraded down the aisle of the sanctuary, waving palms branches, celebrating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. After setting the branches on the communion table, we sat together for the children’s sermon, and I talked with the kids about how the people that day so long ago were excited about seeing Jesus, and lay their cloaks and more branches on the path, honoring him by making the ground softer for him. For easing his way along the path.
As I sat back in my chair on the platform and listened to our beautiful choir anthem, Thomas and his mom popped into my mind. What fun it was- and how lucky I was- to get to make the ground a teensy bit softer for him and his mom. It was just a simple band-aid. Not a big deal at all. Not at all notable, in the scheme of things. But what JOY I felt getting a chance to do it. A surprising level of happy!
Whenever I find extreme happy combined with surprise, it’s a clue to me that God is at work, somehow.
What else do I have in my possession that could ease someone’s path?
How can I make someone’s way in the world softer?
Here during Holy Week, when we remember Jesus, who said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me,” it seems like a good thing to think about.