Recently while my family and I were on vacation, my three-year-old daughter loudly asked the question every parent wants to hear in a public swimming pool: “Daddy, can I go pee pee in the pool?”
A young mom with long, blond hair and a number of elaborate tattoos looked over at me and chuckled. But I wasn’t sure if it was a laugh that said, “I’m judging you” or “That sounds like something my kid would say.”
The next day, we were back at the pool, and my daughters befriended a little girl. When her mother came up, I recognized her from the “pee pee” conversation the day before.
I started chatting with Cassie and her husband, Ryan; and somehow, in the course of the conversation, Cassie began teaching my three-year-old how to swim. I had been working with my daughter for months, but Cassie pushed her past the point I thought she was capable. And before it was over, my girl was swimming from the side of the pool and into Cassie’s arms (see photo above).
A World of Cassies
As we said goodbye to Cassie, I thought of the many people who cared for me in small ways when I was little. And even though there’s no way I can remember most of them, a few random folks came to mind:
- When I was three, I was at a concession stand with my mom and I unscrewed the top of a carbonation tank. It made a loud noise that scared my mom and me; and naturally, my mom got angry and made me sit outside on the sidewalk. I felt so embarrassed; and not long after I sat down, a teenage girl came up and asked me if I was okay. I wouldn’t even look at her, despite her repeated attempts to cheer me up. But I deeply appreciated her kindness – I just didn’t know how to tell her.
- When I was five, there was an older boy in my apartment building named Jonathan White. Although he was much older than me, he would play blocks and talk with me for what seemed like hours. I don’t remember what we talked about when we played together, but I do remember feeling loved, cared for, and safe with him.
- The summer before first grade, I went to an all-day, outdoor camp. I was afraid to use the bathroom at the camp because it looked dark and scary in there. One day, I couldn’t wait any longer, and I went in my pants. I was so humiliated and scared – not only because I had gone in my pants, but because I had to stay with a babysitter and her 12-year-old daughter after camp. It didn’t take long for the woman and her daughter to figure out what happened, and I still remember how gently and quietly they brought it up. They took me to the bathroom, cleaned me up, gave me a pair of briefs to wear, and let me watch TV while my underwear was being washed. The briefs they gave me were too big, but I didn’t care. I was clean and my dignity was intact.
When we were children, someone comforted us, someone played with us, someone cleaned up our underwear when we soiled our pants. And someone like Cassie helped us learn to swim when she had a lot of other things she could’ve been doing.
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, “[W]hen I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.” Let’s search our pasts today and find microscopic graces throughout our lives. Let’s be grateful for the hundreds, probably thousands, of people throughout our lives who have shown us a glimmer of God’s love. Perhaps, in doing so, we will find ourselves wanting to show that kind of love to others.