So today, I got there late ( set my alarm wrong)… about 30 minutes late…so I sat on the next to last row, next to a young couple with several items lining the pew beside them, maybe saving seats for someone, I don’t know, but I sat at the end of the pew. That’s where I prefer to sit anyway. They were just finishing communion and then a song and then the pastor began to preach. As I sit in church, I generally move around a little, sometimes leaning forward with my elbows on my knees, sometimes straight, sometimes leaning on one side with my arm on the back of the seat, repeat.
As I had my arm on the back of the seat, I felt something brush against the side of my arm. Turning my head, I found a young boy, about 2 years old, occupying the last row with his mom and dad. He was very quiet, but moving back and forth along the length of the pew. I began to watch him, because he was looking at me and smiling, communicating with his eyes an interest and innocent acceptance of me. I watched him as he walked over to where his mother was sitting, turned around and walked towards me with his hand outstretched. In his semi-clutched hand was a white piece of…something. I could tell by his mannerisms that he was giving me the white Something. I reached out to receive it and saw that it was a sticker. He had the most terrible time manipulating the sticky paper off his hand and fingers to finally, triumphantly deliver the possession to my outstretched hand. I smiled and quietly said, “Thank you!” I fully expected him to make a trip to his mother again and then return to me and retrieve it, but he didn’t. I then noticed he had a larger paper filled with smaller stickers. He painstakenly pulled a small sticker off the sheet, and returned to repeat the laborious task of getting it off his hands and into mine.
This pattern happened for a third and fourth time until I had two larger stickers and two small ones. What was amazing to me was how much joy this little boy received by giving away to a stranger what he had been given by his parent. My mind immediately went to Jesus’ comments about children to his disciples. He said that the “kingdom of heaven” was like the child sitting on his lap. I think I have a little better sense of what he meant after today.
I left the sanctuary after the service ended and walked upstairs to the classroom where the Sunday School class I usually attend meets. I saw a gentleman I knew and we began some light conversation. I suddenly heard a voice behind me say, “Well, hello Stranger!” Turning, I looked directly into the blue eyes of an old friend. Sonia is from Elkhart, Kansas where my dad pastored and we lived for several years while I was growing up. Sonia’s family and my family were good friends. I have known her since she was only slightly older than the boy who gave me the stickers. Seeing her felt like I had just stepped back in the front door of my boyhood home. She gave me a hug, and I was surprised by how long we hugged. I know her husband was a little bothered, because he came over when we let go of the embrace. Danny and I played football in college together and are friends, too. The three of us talked a little about Elkhart, families, and life…then Sunday School started. Afterward, we said our good-byes and they said I should come down and I said I wanted to. A really nice homegoing in a God-kind of way…