Let’s Tell the Kids
Though the liturgy is the same at all Catholic Churches, the response tunes can vary. The child beside me caught on immediately that I was searching. She held her page toward me and smiled. She wanted to share with me. She knew all the responses, prayers and songs, but held the pages for me. As the priest began his homily she whispered to me, “Are you cold? Because you look cold.” I nodded. The A/C was set on Frozen. “Here,” she whispered. “You should use this.” She spread her shawl out and draped it over my shoulders, smiling. I wore the little shawl all through Mass. Whenever our eyes met, she smiled.
After Communion, the mom and her four little girls retreated to the vestibule. I collected the purses, a pacifier and the shawl and joined them in the vestibule.
“What’s your name?” I asked the oldest child. “Cameron,” she answered. “How old are you, Cameron?” “I’m eight.” “Cameron, I think God is very pleased with you this morning.” She looked at me with such innocence. “First of all, your attention and participation in the Mass, was so…so…” I couldn’t think of a word. “So complete! And your kindness toward me, a stranger in your church, was 100 % Christian. I know God is giving you a smiley face this morning.” I put the shawl around her and distributed their purses. The mother was swaying and bouncing the way moms do when holding a baby. The toddler sucked her thumb and clung to mom’s leg, hiking her dress up to her thigh and leaving slobber on the hem. I could identify with that! The five year-old sat Indian style on the floor and practiced buckling and unbuckling her shoes. But eight-year-old Cameron stared at me in complete surprise.
I remember being that mom. I remember how proud and happy I was whenever someone complimented me on my well-behaved children. Later I’d reiterate that to the kids. “A lady told me after Church today how nice you guys were in Mass today.” I’ve complimented other moms, too. But this was different. This was between Cameron and me.
In the future I will direct my compliments directly to the child who deserves it. I’ll still mention it to the mom, as all moms need that. But, so does that child. We need to talk to the children, not about them, to them. We need to compliment the children. I could tell by the look on Cameron’s face, this was a moment she will always remember.
The other thing I learned from Cameron was how important it is to allow children to sacrifice. She had to have been cold when I was wearing her shawl. But the pleasure she received was a grace for her sacrifice. How easy it would have been to have pulled out my own hymnal and deprived her the joy of sharing her page. How easy to have said, “You need to stay warm.” And I would have deprived her the grace she received for clothing me, a stranger. We need to allow children to do for others, just as we learned as adults to allow our friends to care for us in times of need. I wouldn’t have died of hypothermia without her shawl, I was not dire. But, it was an opportunity for that child. Cameron and I both received joy and grace that Sunday morning.