An early-morning walk on the first day of a new school year. A six or seven-year-old girl with blond hair almost too short to gather into a ponytail had tugged hers in a curling tail at the crown of her head. Clad in a Christian-school polo and kaki skirt, she stood in her driveway, looking outward. What struck me most was the way she’d accessorized her school uniform: with a string of waist-length silver Mardi Gras beads. I wondered how long she’d be allowed to wear those at school: I hoped all day. We need all the confidence we can muster when facing a Daunting New.
She watched my approach, then threw up a hand in an eager wave. I waved in return, feeling that all-too-common pull between not wounding a child’s open soul and not wanting to be perceived as a threat by her protectors. Where were they, anyway?
As I moved along as she bellowed, “Stop!”
“What if…” she mused, “a doggie was to be a swarzie, and…” then followed a string of English and nonsense words that would have done Dr. Seuss proud. As she spoke, she gazed around, finding inspiration for her story in her surroundings. She wrapped up with: “…and what if the doggie would not go into the street because cars were there.” (Cars barreled by on a nearby road.)
I nodded, considering the wisdom of the doggie’s decision. My feet remained stationery; I didn’t know if we’d finished our chat. She stood in silence for a moment, then, “You can go now.”
Not wanting her to feel I’d not appreciated her story, I said, “Have a good day!”
“Have a good day, too!” she responded as she wandered back toward her house.
I walked on, thanking God for the calling card (in my book, When God Walks Away, I describe God’s calling cards as unexpected experiences that remind us of God’s presence—especially when we feel alone). A child, nervous surely, on the first day of school and seeking a place to set her mind until leaving time, stands outside, watching the world’s business. She spies me and decides in an instant to trust me to share part of her morning, to hear her imagination, and not to dismiss or shame her. Perhaps she would have trusted anyone strolling by, but she also responded to my wish for her to have a good day with a hearty, reciprocal wish. We had created a bond, however fleeting.
I hope the interchange was good for her. I know it was for me. She named who I want to be: someone who deserves to be trusted by children, who honors them, and who encourages the child in each person to imagine and create.