The law of love is pretty universal – it’s hard to deny an act of love when you see it. I saw an act of love that made the swelling of the Grinch’s heart look like a flat tire. I saw it in my own son, a boy of 11, prone to selfishness, manipulation, and disrespect. This same boy, my oldest, is finding out about the awkwardness of growing up – the limitations of childhood that begin to melt and fuse with the expectations of adulthood.
He is the oldest of 7, some of which cause great turmoil in our family – crying bouts, tantrums, nothing out of the ordinary for a 2 or 4 year old girl. There have been too many times to count the pairs of ears covered in frustration, followed by a cry for help, “Make her stop!” Sometimes those ears are mine.
It was a business as usual kind of day – daily Mass, then running errands. Today we did our weekly grocery shopping. Two carts, four dangling legs, two drivers, and a mama on a mission. Not that I hate grocery shopping, but I do consider it a necessary evil, especially when at least one gray-haired lady comments, “It goes by so fast!” as I chase my 5 year old down the aisle, leaving the grocery cart behind, taking the 4 year old to the bathroom, while my 7 year old tries out the electric carts the store conveniently keeps by the bathrooms, and my 9 year old is lying on the floor looking for money under the money changer.
Not fast enough for me, lady!
This particular uneventful day, we were in the store about 10 minutes, when my 4 year old daughter starts crying. “Owwww! It hurts!!!” I try to find the gushing blood, the bone protruding, the swollen welt – nothing. Finally, I’m able to coax her into showing me the injury – a tiny scratch, about 1 mm long, on her finger. “I’m so sorry, honey. Can I kiss it?” “Noooo! I need a bandaid!!!!” “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a bandaid. It’s just a little scratch. It will be okay. Let’s finish shopping, and then we can put a bandaid on it in the car.” At this point, I’m pretty proud of the amount of patience and compassion oozing out my pores. “Noooooo! I need a bandaid!!!!!”
Now I’m starting to lose it. I am doing everything I can think of to comfort this kid, and she won’t comply even a little. Give me a break! My oldest says,”I’ll be right back, Mom!” Great. One going awol. That’s how it starts. Let the mutiny begin! But he’s back in a flash, with a piece of tissue paper and 2 green twist-ties. Bent over the injured finger, like a surgeon, he gingerly wraps the delicate area, securing the ‘bandage’ with the twist-ties. She holds up the finger to inspect it. No crying.
I’m pretty sure at this point, my mouth was hanging wide open. Stunned, I watch as my oldest fashions a flower out of several twist-ties, like a master origami paperfolder (which he is, by the way). He hands her the flower. A smile. Is this for real? The small crowd of children surrounding me gives a round of congratulatory high fives and hugs. “Well done, D.”
Why didn’t I think of that? Because I’m Mom. I’m on a mission – to get out of the grocery store as quickly as possible, before a possible core meltdown ensues. I wasn’t thinking of loving my daughter, just quieting her down, to put it politely. The pain of her injury wasn’t the issue; she wanted love, and tenderness, to know she was loved. Her brother gave her what she needed, while I just stood there in awe. Someday he will make a fine father, or Father. This wasn’t too out of the ordinary for him. Yet I am continually amazed at his not-of-this-world love. It is a beautiful gift from God, and I hope I can help him nurture it. At least I will give him plenty of opportunities to use it.
“This I command you: love one another.” (John 15:17)