Recently, during an interview regarding my book Waiting with Purpose: Persevering When God Says “Not Yet,” I was posed with a question I’d never been asked before. Most people ask me what my children learn from me about waiting, but this time it was the opposite: what did I learn from them? It didn’t take me long to notice that my daughters are naturally filled with wisdom, while I often brood about my troubles.
Because we spend an inordinate amount of time in medical buildings, waiting and exam rooms, or hospitals, my older children, Felicity and Sarah, have learned the art of waiting well. We always pack books, games, snacks, and toys in a bag to occupy them if the waiting time exceeds thirty minutes. Despite this preparation, the girls always seem to find a better way to distract themselves: conversing with other patients who are also waiting.
At first, I hated this idea, because I am a natural introvert and prefer to keep to myself. Over time, though, I saw the benefits to both my girls and the recipients of their kindness. Usually, I scan the waiting rooms and notice that everyone present is carrying an invisible burden. Many look haggard, overwhelmed, and worried. They’re noticeably discouraged. Though we don’t know their stories, my girls walk up to a select few with a smile and greeting.
“Hello! My name is Sarah,” is how our middle child normally begins. “What’s your name?” Nearly always, she is received with the same courtesy. After finding out the name of the person she’s speaking with, she offers a compliment: “I like your shirt. It’s very colorful” or “You have pretty eyes.” Instantly, the person is cheered and uplifted in a way that only a child can do.
Felicity is quieter and more intentional in her interactions. She doesn’t approach strangers, but she will engage in conversation when prompted. Once we return home and she’s had time to muse upon the encounter for a bit, she’ll come up to me and say something like, “Mom, I think that lady today needs prayers. She seemed really sad.” Then, come evening prayer time, she will remember “the lady at the doctor’s office” in her litany of intentions.
Each child sparks something in me that has been lost in my adulthood: a smile, a simple hello, a short but sincere prayer. I mull around so self-focused that I neglect to notice things, the little things all around me that speak of God’s love. Sometimes, I’m learning, he wants me to be that agent of love in a hurting, broken world.
I’m always humbled by the ways in which our girls manifest their inherent spiritual gifts and charisms. It is so natural to them, and they don’t hesitate for fear of offending someone or interrupting them. The purity of their intentions shines forth in the way they reach people’s hearts without pretention or presumption.
I’ve learned from my daughters that waiting is an opportunity, an invitation. God never wastes a moment of our lives if we allow him to move freely in every moment – even the boring, mundane ones. When I’m waiting in line, I can offer a genuine smile to the frazzled mom behind me, wrangling her children. I can stop to help an elderly man pick up the groceries that have fallen out of his cart. I can compliment someone. I can listen.
Children teach us that we must do as St. Benedict said: listen with the “ear of the heart.” I can’t imagine a world without children as our mentors, because they remind me what it’s like to draw closer to the Heart of Jesus. If only I pay attention to life all around me, I will never miss a moment to bring God’s joy to someone in need of encouragement and hope.
Text © Jeannie Ewing, 2018. All rights reserved.