I am not a very good parent volunteer. There are some amazing volunteers at my children’s school. A few women are practically fixtures at the place. One friend of mine is there so often that she has the freedom to snag a cup of coffee from the teacher’s lounge even on the days she is not working. You know, when she is up there for an assembly or something. Every time I see her at the school I think how thankful I am for women like her.
Then, I think how guilty I feel that I am not one of them.
It is not that I think I am too good to do it, or that I don’t care. I really think the problem is one of logistics, because I have been a room mother. I have been on the regular volunteer rotation for my children’s classrooms. That was in my other life, before our family grew from three to five children. In Life Before Five, my house was clean, and meal planning and grocery shopping took a couple of hours, not all day. I was busy, of course, but life had at least a measure of order.
Back then, I was even caffeine free! Now, I can’t even think without a cup of coffee nearby.
Now is Life After Five, and now…I am always, always behind. I know I am treading the ocean of my labors hopelessly, but I keep treading anyway because I love my kids.
But I don’t volunteer much anymore.
Recently, I realized the school year was almost over and I hadfailed pretty miserably in the volunteer department. So, when a request for field trip volunteers came across my desk, I put my name on the dotted line, and the date on my calendar. I would accompany my two third graders to the 4H camp for their adventure.
I was pretty proud of myself. All of that personal sacrifice and all. I should have known God was up to something. I mean, it is so like Him to let me think I am the one giving when in reality I am the one in need.
He, of course, had my blessing waiting for me in the school foyer. She was tall, blue-eyed, and blonde. Some people would call her special needs. My son’s teacher, Mr. Spencer, called her one of God’s children.
I guess the Spirit within her saw my ragged, worn out soul, and had *Amelia adopt me for the rest of the day.
“Come here, child.” Jesus seemed to whisper to me. Just stay near her. Drink in the light.
Amelia is a guileless soul. Sweetness, honesty, and purity. She walks straight forward into life with hope and trust. She expresses her needs, and fears without shame. When the adults in her world assure her, she believes them, and takes the next step into the unknown.
When we disembarked the bus at the camp, she took my hand and spoke to me. Her song-like voice bore the slightest trace of discomfort.
“I’m beginning to get hungry.”
“It is ok, Amelia, we will eat in a little while. It is not time yet.”
We gathered in the common area for the camp staff to introduce themselves to the children, and give them an overview of the program. After the director was finished with her presentation, she asked if there were any questions. Amelia raised her hand.
“Excuse me,” she said.
“Yes? Do you have a question?”
“Yes. What kind of food do you have here?”
The camp director look a bit startled and then proceeded to rattle off the menu for the day’s lunch.
Soon, we were on our way to our first class. Amelia took my hand, and leaned in to whisper to me.
“They have good food here…”
“Yes, I heard.”
“But I’m hungry now! It’s ok. I can wait.”
I smiled at her bravery and we marched off, hand in hand, to our adventure. Later on, her courage would be pushed to the limit. We all gathered to sit along the benches of a large gazebo before the forestry class. Amelia sat across from me as the guide began to describe our hike through the woods. I watched fear creep into the child’s eyes, as we were instructed look at everything, but touch nothing. Our guide told us how important it was to stay on the path, because there was poision ivy in the woods all around. When she finished speaking, Amelia raised her hand.
“It, it, it..scares me when you say the “P” word,” she said as her voice cracked. “I don’t want to be near poision!”
“Oh, don’t worry! As long as you stay on the path, you will be fine, I promise!”
“Ok. I will listen to you.”
I will listen to you.
Oh, how I want to be just like Amelia.
I’m so tired of the regret of my failures, and the voices of my fears. I’m sick of striving in vain in the effort to cover my weaknessess and build my walls. I want to walk fearlessly into life with an open heart, empowered by the conviction that it will all be okay in the end, if I just trust my Guide and stick to the path.
“Listen to me!” The Spirit said. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3-4)
Later on, Amelia and I walked hand in hand through the woods. A stream, swollen with rain, bubbled noisily beside the path. Tiny snakes and delicate spiders hung from the branches of trees, as dappled sunlight filtered through the canopy above. Flowers bloomed. Birds sang. Squirrels chattered. The trail was slippery with mud, and poision ivy clung to the edges, but we stayed on the path.
It was undeniably Holy.
“I hear you, Jesus,” I prayed. “I’ll stay on the path.”
“And, I’ll listen to you…”
*The name has been changed to protect her privacy.