I woke up this morning, near my usual time, slightly before 7. Benjamin was crying, so I gave him his 7:00 bottle a few minutes early, then went to take my shower. Usually he drinks that and then goes back to sleep until 8 or so, while Nic gets some beauty rest. This morning, though, by the time I got out of the shower he was fussing again, and by the time I got my pants on, he was crying loudly. Frustrated, and mad that he was waking Nicole up, I went back in and changed his diaper, calmed him down, and put him back in his crib with his unfinished bottle. The second I walked away, he started screaming again. It crossed my mind that if I opened the window and set him outside, it would be a lot quieter and I could finish getting ready for work… but I picked him back up, sat down in the rocking chair, and tried again to get him back to sleep.
Nothing worked, and finally I just brought him in to lay beside Nic so I could do my stretches and get out the door. A few minutes later, Nic had given up on sleep and let him down to play. As I was putting my shoes on, I heard a little giggle, followed by the clumping of not-quite-coordinated feet, as Benjamin ran out to find me. I gave him a hug, and put him down to leave, and he started crying again. Nic picked him up and we held him between us until he clambered back into my arms, whining to be held by daddy.
I was in such a hurry to leave for work — which isn’t even that great a destination — that I didn’t understand what his problem was this morning. It turns out, my son just wanted to be held by his dad.
As I drove to the office, I passed a little girl standing in front of her house, waiting for her bus. The weather was an ugly hybrid of various kinds of precipitation. The ground was covered in a thin layer of white, as if it were snow, but when it hit your windshield it clicked sharply like hail, then melted instantly and soaked everything like rain. I couldn’t imagine how it must have felt for her, a hood barely covering her head, a grimace on her face as she bravely stared into it, looking through the mist for her school bus.
I had to wonder where her daddy was. This was someone’s little princess, someone’s precious daughter. She was in front of a nice house, in a nice neighbourhood. But she was alone. With no one to defend her against the elements, and no one to stand with her as she waited for life to sweep her away.
A few weeks ago I was in a Dunkin Donuts, getting my caffeine fix. As I waited in line, I noticed a very large man, squeezed into a chair in front of a table. He was one of those body-builder types, and he was so large that he made the furniture look like toys. He wasn’t fat, or sloppy. Rather, he was well dressed, handsome, and obviously in great shape. And he was listening with rapt attention to the blond beauty across the table from him.
She was maybe 6 or 7, clearly his daughter, and they were out on a date. She was talking animatedly about her day at school, her feet swinging back and forth under the chair. And he sipped the little coffee clutched in his giant hand, and hung on her every word.
I wanted to go up and pat him on the back, or thank him, or shake his hand — I might have, except I was scared he might break me in half. I wanted him to know what I’ve seen, in the kids we’ve met in our years in ministry. I wanted him to know that his love for her would make all the difference as she became a teenager and then a young lady. I wanted him to know that there was one little kid who would grow up knowing that she was special; that she had value, and a purpose in life.
Yesterday an old friend from elementary school IMed me to let me know that one of our classmates was back in the hospital — her second bout with cancer. She won the first battle, but this time its not looking that good.
She and I aren’t close, but we shared similar childhoods, even went to the same church. She went to high school with Nic, and actually had a little part in setting Nicole and I up, a decade ago.
We’re 27. We’re just now coming into our own: getting married, starting families, taking leadership in our careers and churches. What if she doesn’t get any of those things? She started in the same place as we did, with the same foundation and the same value. But her story contains chapters no one can control, and that she could never have planned for or strategized around.
Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we stand in cruel weather, waiting for a future that we can’t ever really be ready for. But if you have a family, or some good friends, or a partner who will stand in the rain with you, or hold you, or listen to you, then you have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
And if you don’t, I hope you know your Father in heaven won’t ever let you go.