By LORRAINE V. MURRAY | Published May 2, 2019
Someone had made my bed and it was a much neater job than my own efforts. This same person had tidied up the bathroom and provided me with fresh towels, plus a carafe of filtered water.
I was spending the Easter weekend at Ladydale, the name of my friends’ home in South Carolina. They live out in the country in an area drenched with delicious silence except for the occasional crowing from their roosters and the murmuring of ducks waddling along beneath an open window.
The mysterious housekeeper, I soon realized, was their little girl, 11, whom I’ve known since infancy. In fact, before she was born, her parents had requested prayers to have another child, and I’d eagerly petitioned heaven for them.
They also have a 17-year-old boy with a sweet and loving temperament, who enjoys riding his scooter around the kitchen and living room. He has Down syndrome and his little sister includes him happily in her games.
When I’m at Ladydale, there’s wonderful food, generous cups of cappuccino and plenty of laughter. Still, what I cherish most is the chance to leave my serious adult world behind and step into the enchanted landscape of childhood.
“Would you help me make clothing for my animals?” the little girl asked—and I sat down and began pondering how to create a hat that would perch jauntily upon the head of a miniature stuffed cat.
Working with the simplest of materials, paper napkins and doilies, we laughed and chatted as we rather nicely outfitted a family of ducks.
Each day, I was the recipient of multiple hugs and assurances of love from this sweet child, whose housekeeping efforts are an outgrowth of her affection for me. Even at this young age, she knows love is shown through actions, not just words. Really, what good is it when someone proclaims fervent devotion for another person and then does little to validate that proclamation?
How many marriages suffer from a husband and wife saying ,“I love you” and then doing little to act that out? How often do we proclaim our love for God and then turn our backs on his children?
A poignant Gospel reading features Jesus standing on the shore, quite unrecognizable to the disciples in the boat. He affectionately calls them “children,” which might have surprised these grown men, but they still don’t realize it’s him.
It’s only when the net comes back overflowing with fish that they understand who this mysterious stranger is. As the story progresses, we learn that Jesus has cooked breakfast for them on a charcoal fire. Clearly, Jesus was moved to feed and take care of the people he loved.
Jesus had already said that children understood his message better than adults, whose hearts were hardened. The little girl at Ladydale has an innocent, open heart, which is eager to give happiness to others.
And she is a lovely example of Jesus’ words, “Unless you become like a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” She’s not afraid to show her affection, she doesn’t fear rejection and she doesn’t complicate her tenderness.
She does what Jesus tells Peter to do as a way to show his love: “Feed my lambs.” Three times the question is asked: “Do you love me?” and each time Jesus reveals how love for God takes shape in the real world.
Feeding the lambs means washing feet, cooking meals, sharing bread and praying for the broken and the weak. For a little girl, it means making beds and giving hugs and praying the rosary with her parents on the way to Mass.
How fortunate we are to witness a child drawing a picture for her father or plucking a particularly fetching wildflower for her mother. How fortunate to spend time with the little ones, who truly understand Christ’s message about tending to the lambs—and whose hearts are still tender and open.
Sketch is by Jef Murray, whose work can be seen at www.jefmurray.com Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.