This morning I had the privilege of going with a "loaner" child to the zoo... ha! Actually, I have been known to borrow a friend's kid when I wanted to go see a children's movie but didn't want to look out of place! But this was a bit different.
This was an Easter Seals field trip and since the parents could not go as they normally do, they asked me if I wanted to go with their son. No one had to go with the four-year-old boy - the daycare could have managed without any extra help - but with a bus full of three and four-year-old kids, the more adults the better. I haven't been to the zoo in ages, my little friend is a really cute kid, and so it was a no-brainer. Of course I wanted to go! The weather was perfect - blue skies, warm temps, and a slight breeze.
When I got there, I saw a fairly good sized group and quickly found my little friend. The first thing I realized was that I should have practiced a bit... Brakes on a wheel chair??? Who knew??? (Well, my friend did because later he put one brake on somehow and we did a half circle for a bit there... Pretty sad when a four-year-old knows more than you do...)
My little friend is legally blind but can see lights and large shapes when he wears his glasses. As we approached the first pen, I said something like, "See the monkey swinging from the tree!" One of the workers knelt down by my friend and said, "Do you hear the train coming?" Immediately she got a response, "Twain!" I realized I was still working my way up a much needed learning curve! (How did I get this far along in life without learning how to converse with an extremely nearsighted child in a wheel chair???) I paid attention and heard her describe things to my guy so I started doing the same. "There's a giraffe! It has a really long neck and it's looking right at you!"
I have to admit that my little friend wasn't impressed with the giraffe but he did reach out to touch the wood barrier separating us from the wildlife and he asked about a golf cart that passed us a little later. He also captained our "ship" at times, saying things like, "Push me!" Clearly, I was falling down on the job; I guess when you've listened to one bear nap in the shade, you've listened to them all...:) So I told him that we'd let the bear nap and move on. He turned his sweet face towards me and said, "I hada nap..." I got the message: naps are okay for bears but not for boys...
When we got to the penguins, he ordered me to move closer while he reached his hand out to touch the glass, clearly reaching for the light that was refracted through the water behind the glass. The little guy has taste - it was the neatest exhibit that we visited, tons better than the bear thing or the snake thing or the capybara thing. (Really, who wants to see something that looks like a cross between a pig and a ferret?)
When we rode the train, I wondered what was going through his mind. When we got to the picnic table, he told me. "I want milk." "No milk! I want apples." "No apples! I want milk." I went through a routine worthy of vaudeville as I opened a jar of apple sauce only to have to close it again in order to break out the milk only to have to put it away in order to break out the apple sauce again. He never drank or ate anything but had fun keeping me busy until finally I burst out laughing and said, "You are playing with me!"
His teacher said he'd probably eat after his nap which automatically elicited another, "I hada nap!"
During the trip, there was another woman who was accompanying her niece, also a child in a wheel chair. This girl looked to be about 7 years old and she only opened her eyes maybe two times during the whole outing. She was dressed in a cute outfit and her hair was nicely fixed but she never really moved or showed any sign of being aware of what was going on around her. The aunt and I talked some and she gave me some tips on how to handle the wheel chair. When it was lunch time, we ended up at different tables and for a time I was so absorbed in the I-want-whatever-you-don't-have-in-your-hand-at-the-moment game that I wasn't aware of anything else. Then when we were "finished" and waiting for the others to catch up, just sitting in the shade soaking up the breeze, I saw that the aunt had a small bag that looked like a miniature IV and she was holding it up in the air. It was at that point that I realized the little girl must have a feeding tube. I watched as the aunt held the bag up for a bit and then lowered it and added some liquid into it before raising it again.
And I thought about it.
I thought about how it would take so much grace to love like that.
The little one I was accompanying was adopted by two of the sweetest Christians I know. They got their son when he was almost two years old. At that time he was thought to be completely blind, he couldn't eat any solid food, he couldn't sit up on his own, and he couldn't say a single word. Today he walked at times while I held onto his hands, he sat up in the train with me, he told me what to do :) ("No dwinkee!!" "Go!!!") and as I've already indicated, he operated the brakes on his wheel chair better than I did.
That's love. That's grace.
But doesn't the same thing apply in any relationship? In any relationship, doesn't it take both grace and love? Grace for the difficult times and love all the time?
I was still turning those things over in my mind on my way home. As I parked the car, I suddenly really heard the words that were coming from my CD - something about a time when there will be no more pain, no more scars... And to my complete surprise, I started bawling right there in my car. Because of a woman who pushed her niece through the zoo today for 2 hours and then fed her through a tube while sitting at a picnic table. Because of a boy who couldn't sit up, talk, or walk over two years ago and now he can do all those things. And because someday both kids will be able to run, skip, and jump.
In theinterim, there is Grace. And Love. In all shapes and sizes.
Today my little friend got to hear about monkeys swinging from the trees and I got to see. Grace and love in action.