Nope, I was trying to steer my cart at Target towards the purse department so I could find a bag big enough to hold my bullet journal (which is changing my life and turning me into a bullet journal evangelist, by the way.) Unfortunately for a wandering toddler with teensy tiny pigtail sprouts on her head, I was trying to put my phone away at the same time and veering so much that I nearly ran into her. I apologized, but her mommy gave me such a mean look that I stopped for a moment by the boys’ section to wait for the two of them to walk away. Sorry, pigtail baby. I didn’t mean it.
That’s when I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye. Over by the display of three little boy mannequins (I later took the pic above so you could see it) was a matching little boy, though he had a face and was an actual human, probably 4 or 5 years old. He was looking the mannequins over while his mommy thumbed through a rack of tee shirts and talked to someone on the phone.
As I pushed my phone into my pocket, I watched him circle the three faceless boys and then crouch next to the one in black shorts on the end. What was he going to do? Very gingerly he leaned over and lightly stroked the fake boy’s calf muscle. Then he gave it a pat, as a friend might do, stood and walked around to examine him face to face. I pretended to scan my shopping list in case the mama looked up from her phone and caught me watching her boy. (I’m not creepy, lady. I just think kids are awesome.) But turns out I didn’t need to worry. She was lost in conversation about an instant pot and how great it is and how it saves her so much time but how she’s never going to make her own yogurt in it because that’s just ridiculous. I mean BUY YOUR YOGURT AT THE GROCERY STORE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD, PEOPLE. YOU DON’T NEED HOMEMADE YOGURT FOR THE INSTANT POT TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
(I guess she’s an instant pot evangelist.)
As the mama went on about how it makes great rice, the real boy gave the fake boy a nice smile and then slid his hand into the boy’s plastic one.
(Oh my gosh. How great is that?)
He held hands with the boy until his mom looked up and said, “Jakey, don’t touch that” and then said a hurried goodbye and put her phone back in her purse. “Come on. It’s time to go.”
As she pushed her cart into the aisle and headed towards the towels, the boy give a little wave goodbye to his mannequin friend.
HE GAVE A LITTLE WAVE GOODBYE TO HIS MANNEQUIN FRIEND! Can you believe it? And then arranged his own arms like the jogging mannequin triplets on display and jogged, knees high, to catch up to his mother.
I know it’s just a kid being awesome as kids are, but the rest of the day my brain kept replaying that scene, the calf stroking, the hand holding, the wave goodbye. It struck me as beautiful and important somehow. It struck me as HOLY.
It was just a child playing, lost in his imagination. What was holy about that?
I think I felt Holiness in the air right in the boy’s department at Target because at that moment, I got to see a child imagine the humanity in a piece of plastic molded into the form of a boy. I got to see him touch his (plastic) skin, hold his (plastic) hand, and wave goodbye.
I find this holy because more than half the time, I don’t notice the humanity in even the real live people I encounter each day. I try, but a lot of the time I’m busy living my life. And if I find that I disagree with someone in a major way- if I can’t deal with the differences between us- I tend to put them in a group in my head and turn the other way. It’s not good, I know, and I’m working on it. It’s hard to take time to imagine their life or their fears or their wounds. If I don’t do the imagining- or the asking and the talking and relationship building- I can tell myself I don’t have to care.
Luckily we serve a God who knows our weaknesses, knows how hard it is to keep our imagining heart as we leave childhood behind, the kind of God who stands in the locked room after crucifixion, and knows that imagination is hard for some of us. So Jesus says, “Put your finger here; see my hands? Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”
How lucky for those who haven’t seen, but can imagine.
Thanks, little boy at Target. I’m so glad I noticed you.