The tribe decided to pass on playgroup this morning; while I was going through the craft supplies, I unearthed a bunch of leftover craft kits and partial sheets of stickers. Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man unanimously declared they would prefer to spend the morning at home, creating wondrous works of art, and it was a decidedly pleasant morning we passed packed into the kitchen. Even Baby Guy got into the act, chortling in his high chair with a piece of construction paper and a TaDoodle crayon.
After lunch and naps, it occurred to me that some sort of outing was in order, but I had a little too much left to do to make a trip to the park feasible. Slurpees from the nearby convenience store, however, seemed to be a pretty good bet, as they are relatively cheap, utterly beloved by the tribe, and not terribly time-consuming. The kids concurred with my assessment of the excellence of that idea, so into the van and off to the store we went.
As we approached the parking lot turn-in for the store, we fell in behind a van that seemed to be having extraordinary difficulty getting to the gas pumps. The driver was elderly, and I commented to a curious Bugaboo that the nice man appeared to be having some van trouble and that I might need to help him push to get to safety. That’s probably why she watched him while I was in the store filling a quartet of Slurpee cups with frozen cherry beverages and picking up a few chances on the MegaMillions drawing.
When I returned to the van, I secured the drink tray in the shotgun seat and started to put the key in the ignition when I heard Bugaboo pipe up, “Mommy, that man looks worried and sad.”
To my sorrow and shame, I hesitated. I had four kids and three frozen drinks in the van, and a Herculean to-do list awaiting me at home. Nonetheless, it was one of those moments that I hope for, when the kids see that Jesus wasn’t kidding about loving our neighbors, known or unknown, so I hopped out, locked Fran the Van, and jogged the few steps over to the gas pump.
The elderly gentleman in a torn shirt was trying to start his own van. I looked at the number on the pump I’d seen him using and saw “$2.26.” His van trouble was that he had coasted in with no gas, and he didn’t have enough money to buy enough gas to even restart his vehicle, much less get home. I thought about the tightness of each month’s budget, thought about the tuitions that need to be paid, the swimming lessons we want so badly for the kids. Then thought about the Slurpees I’d just bought, and the lottery tickets. There are things that are more important than whether we get to go to Big Yellow M this weekend.
I asked him if he would allow me to help. He thanked me, and when he did, I saw the stubs of his few remaining teeth. Yep, there are lots of things more important than chicken nuggets and fries.
After I came back out of the store and started the van for our trip home, Bugaboo chirped again from the back seat, “Look, Mommy, that man is smiling! And he’s waving to us! He looks so much happier! I’m glad we’re his friends.”
It took me a minute to whisper back, “Yeah, sweetheart. I am, too.”
Today’s prayer: Lord, You told us that whatever we do unto the least of Your children, we do unto You. Thank You for the reminder from Your little blessing, who has listened so closely and well to the love letters You left for us. Please keep me mindful that sometimes the neighbor in need is right under my nose, and help me recall that in Your eyes, none of us are greater or less than any other. Please help me continue to teach Your blessings that we are to be friends to any person in need, and that we should ever place the needs of others higher in our priorities than luxurious wants for ourselves.