So just when you think you can’t teach your kids anything, you go to a conference and the teacher reads you a story….(and then you ransom the story with mints, because the teacher wanted to keep it as an example but is dependent on Starlite mints – true story).
$100 Dog, by Kaia Hager (reprinted with permission)
The rain poured everywhere, but he didn’t care. He stood in the rain and watched me get soaked. Clenching and un-clenching my fists I tried to plot how to snatch the dog. Even though it was cold outside I felt my face get hotter and hotter. A car drove by way too fast to be legal and got us even more wet.
“There’s a speed limit stupid!” I yelled, praying after he didn’t hear me.
Thunder slapped the ground and the wind made the trees dance. The unknown dog stumbled backwards, scared, looking around to try to find the source. The unknown dog inched forward, looking around to make sure danger didn’t strike. Just thinking made me realize how proud my mom would be. She would tell me I did something amazing.
“Come here dog!” I yelled, loud enough to hear but not to scare him. He ran at me but didn’t look like he would hurt me. Water leaked out of his fur.
He ran inside the house with me. When we stopped in the house my mom brought him to our dog’s food and water dishes. He ate almost all the food and he drank all the water.
He finally laid down and we were able to call his owners. They were crying from what I could hear. About a half hour later they left with the dog. They said he was 13 and that he swam from Grand Haven!
Next summer as I sat on the couch my sweat seemed to have glued me to the couch. My eyelids were closing slowly.
“Ring! Ring!” yelled the doorbell, making my cocoon of sweat break.
“Mom! The door!” I yelled, upset that the doorbell woke my half sleep.
“Kaia! Think of what you want to be grounded from!” she yelled back.
As my mom opened the door a woman was standing trying to find something in her purse. “Oh hi! Do you remember when, last fall, you saw our dog and took him into your house and called us? Well we are so thankful that you did that for us. So here!” the woman handed my mom a $100 bill.
“Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!” My mom yelled as she hugged the woman.
A million memories crossed my mind of when she hugged me. Or hugged other people. And now this memory will be added to the list.
Later that night as we sat down and ate dinner my was talking about what happened earlier today.
“We do a thing for the love, not the prize,” my mom said, with a smile on her face.
Tonight I went to pick up Kaia from a youth group event, as the only person present who actually qualified as “youth” she got a lot of personal attention. She drank a tiny bit of vinegar as she learned about how Jesus died. And she prayed evening prayer with those gathered. I came into the nave and sat in the very back and just listened to Jared intone the collects.
Our Youth Coordinator put a vase of flowers on a rail and she lit a candle. As the body and blood of a savior reposed on the altar on the other side of the wall they prayed for the soul of a 13 girl who committed suicide in our small community this week. This girl who got to the end of the world and just kept walking, out into the deep, off the edge.
My own girl is not yet 13, such a dangerous, tumultuous age. An age when the velvet ropes of all that the world expects a girl to be start to really become tight as they wind themselves around the wrists of our girls.
I want more for them. More than what society says they can and should be. More.
The story Kaia wrote is true and I have copied it out verbatim. And that she is listening tells me that somehow, sometimes, I am doing something right.
Ave says I can teach her to pour the milk tomorrow, she wants to learn.
And so I see that I have this tremendous task of modeling for them what a woman who is truly set free is. What it looks like when a woman refuses to live according to an arcane and sexist set of rules. And I see that they are listening to me, all the time.
So maybe the Good Friday message that I heard today is true: maybe it’s not about beating myself up but about trusting in the wide wide grace that I tell you exists. More about these million tiny moments where these small people who seem to basically ignore me when they are actually listening. They are soaking up Jesus love and music love and people love and service love.
We all do this thing differently, and that’s ok. I think sometimes, tonight anyway, that I am doing some small part of it right.