Moving to DC taught me that there has been a constant in my life that has been so present that I never imagined life without it: being around kids A LOT of the time. My life is marked by the kids I babysat, the kids I tell stories about and follow on Facebook (which constantly makes me feel old). Catherine, Michael, and Bryce were my first. Then Susanne and Riley, and Carson and Kaleigh (and later Jackson!). Then Marshall and Walker entered the scene, along with Trevor and Crawford. Even in Arkansas I babysat: Linden and Evie, and Tobin, Vada, and River. In Maryville, Daniel and Asher quickly entered my life. Summers were full of Presbyterian preacher’s kids: Stockton, Anderson, Hannah, Charlie, Caroline, and Thomas! Children are a constant, and I’ve been feeling the hole that not being around kids has left in me.
Last Sunday at New York Avenue Presbyterian, I had the chance to give the children’s sermon and then go to Worship Play with the few kids in worship who weren’t at the all church retreat. It was the most restorative day I’d had in a long time. We read stories about Moses, sang Pharaoh, Pharaoh, and ate fruit snacks. I heard about Halloween costumes and how school was going, and made a fool of myself with dramatic motions during our song and different voices during the Bible stories. It was wonderful, but I knew that it would not be an every Sunday kind of activity.
The main part of my job on Sunday mornings is working in the Radcliffe Room, a breakfast/hospitality ministry that NYAPC offers each Sunday. Guests can come and get clothes that they need from the clothing closest, some coffee and breakfast, and then have space to hang out and talk to one another or to church members, sing spirituals or hymns, attend a Bible study, or simply rest for a little while. It’s incredible to see every week, but today was different.
This morning, a woman that I hadn’t met before came in with her little girl who is probably around two. I had been told that if a child were to come in, I should go pick a few books from the nursery to give them since we don’t typically have children’s clothing. I went and asked her mother if she would like that, and then tried to find books that I knew were fun. After I had delivered the books, I returned to the stage to keep the women’s clothing area pretty organized and visit with the guests that I’ve come to know, but I was super excited when the mom and toddler came onto the stage. Her mom and I talked a little bit and she told me some of her story. She made a point to tell me that even though she was having to start over from nothing, she knew that keeping God first was the key to feeling like she could make it.
Towards the end of Radcliffe Room, one of NYAPC’s parish associates served communion to the guests. She began by telling a story about the saints of the world, defining saints as “those who let the light of God shine through them.” She spoke about the saints in all of our lives who have shaped and guided us, and I could feel the room settle as we all thought of those people who immediately come to mind. As she spoke the words of institution and prepared to take the plate and cup around to each of the guests, those of us standing around the piano began to sing Let Us Break Bread Together.
The mother and her daughter had moved to sit closer to the piano so that they could sing and hear the music, and while Beth moved around the room and we sang the song, the little girl grew impatient. She had watched attentively while Beth spoke and prayed, and grinned when the music began to play. Her impatience showed itself with her ever louder cry: “Mama, I want some! Mama, I want some!”
Beth served the little girl and her face lit up. She held that piece of bread while she heard the words, “This is the bread of life, for you!,” and gleefully ate it and drank the grape juice out of the little cup that was just her size.
If the saints are those who let the light of God shine through them, then I met a saint this morning: a tiny little girl with a bright pink coat whose shouts of “Mama, I want some!,” would not be ignored.