We went for a bike ride the other day and my daughter asked to stop at this chapel in our town. The chapel is not, technically, our religious denomination, but this church's congregation is filled with people who, generally, are accepting and loving and that is more than enough for me these days. We walk in and no one asks us what we are doing here. They just kindly say hello and go about their business, and then she went about hers.
She found her way to this small chapel inside the building; it's almost hidden really. Years ago, her brother went to preschool here and she toddled around the halls and, I don't know, remembered this place, I guess, because she certainly had a plan. Gosh, their little indelible memories make me want to save so much more for the future therapy they'll likely need because, shoot, THEY REMEMBER EVERYTHING.
Anyways, in her bike helmet and ballet leotard, she sat down in this chair and asked me to be quiet and to listen. Then, I took out my phone and took this picture because I am an ass. Who does that? Maybe only 7th grade boys with their sluggish frontal lobes. I cannot help myself sometimes.
Finally, I listened and quieted. I think what she was trying to tell me was to be still, which is not my strong suit, unless you count lying on a couch in front of a bad television show as being still. If so, then I'm awesome at it. Otherwise, not so much.
She talked aloud while she faced forward. I listened while standing behind her. Our baby did goofy things around us.
I just really listened and so I don't remember it all as quotable words. But, the thing I remember is this: She prayed aloud for a cousin of hers. She didn't pray for him to fight and she didn't pray for him to live, which is the typical stuff I hear people pray for when someone has cancer.
She just prayed that he would be ok. She prayed that he would know that people are praying for him, that he would know that people are thinking about him and caring about him. And so then I felt god, right there in this chapel that is not, denominationally speaking, for me. My church wouldn't count this as a place where my husband and I could have married one another, which is odd because I felt as much love in there as anywhere. Oh well.
The thing is: We, as a family, don't pray very much -- not in the traditional way, anyways. We talk very much to one another and we give lots of love to one another and we take lots of walks together and have serious conversations and that all feels prayerful for us, so you can keep your judgmental stones in your pockets to throw at a later date. We're good. Enough, anyways. One of my kids doesn't really believe in prayer in the way people typically do, which is lovely because he is about to start his Catholic catechesis class for the year, so that should be super fun for his teachers. But, I don't know, we talk about it all and that is something. Everybody has their own way. This girl of mine believes in a way that is all her own, too, which is just the way I want her to do most everything really -- faith, included.
Lots of people get sick; lots of sicknesses and diseases and illnesses and syndromes are just awful at times. They are, typically, no great fun. Often, people who are in it will look on the bright side and then they show us the bright side. And we're all, "See?! There's a bright side! Thank goodness!" as we sit underneath our umbrella trying to find the shaded spots so as not to be burned from our own difficult bright sides. Life is hard, man. Beautiful and lovely, too. But, hard, nonetheless.
People may find a bright side, and there may be an actual bright side, but that does not eliminate the dark side. It is still not easy. It is still not fun. It can be lonely.
Maybe knowing that you're being prayed for by a little girl in her ballet leotard all on her own could help. Maybe just for an hour, anyways. All she wants is for you to be ok, to know that you're loved, which means this for me: Somehow she believes that that is all we need, that that is all she needs, that that is all that needs to happen in order for there to be some sense of peace in this hard world.
I know we all think we're supposed to teach our kids everything, to fill them up with love and activities and classes -- I know I think that sometimes. But, I also believe that they come to us fully filled right up to the tippy top, and that our only real job might be not to spill them, not to spill or to chip their little cups and not to let out all of the goodness they already have inside.
She and I have the day together today. I can't wait to see where she takes me, assuming I put down my phone, stand back, and listen.