Did you ever wish you could recognize holy moments in time to live fully in them? I had an opportunity to do just that this week in the most unlikely place – the flu clinic at the doctor’s office. As usual, I was rushing and flustered after pushing my husband to get ready so we could get there at the appointed time. I was even quizzing him on his behavior: “Who taught you that it was appropriate to leave for an appointment at the time you are supposed to be there.” Thankfully he did not respond. This was not the holy moment – although it could have been, as can any moment.
The holy moment began when we pulled into the crammed parking lot. I was turning carefully into a spot next to a big van when I saw the van door slide open. I stopped immediately, half way into my spot. A little girl, maybe four years old, grinned at me through the open door. “Mom, there’s a car coming,” she reported. Mom peeped through the door on the other side of the van, while trying to corral a small flock of children. Thanks for being careful,” she said calmly. “Come out this door.”
The girl scampered across the seat and got out while I finished parking. I was getting out of the car when I noticed a small boy hurrying around the back of the van and past me. Mom gathered up this child with three more little ducklings, and they walked into the doctor’s office.
By the time we got in, mom was filling out five forms for flu shots for four kids under 8 and herself, when one of the older girls came out of the playroom and said something to her. Mom responded, “Well the first thing you need to know is that we don’t use that word about people.”
We waited behind the family, while the nurse checked their forms. One of the kids grabbed some suckers and passed them out; even mom got one. I thought, “She should take those away and use them for a reward after they get the shot.” (Bad idea from parenting two boys who hated shots!) But Mom knew better. One of the children couldn’t get her sucker out of the cellophane. Mom leaned down with her sucker in hand and said “If you start at the bottom, you can pull it off more easily.” The girl followed her example and was rewarded with a lick on a purple sucker.
Just then the nurse called to the family, “You can all go into room 1.” We finished our forms and sat outside room 1, waiting for our turn. Then I realized that all five of them were in there together lining up for shots and said to my husband, “We’re about to hear some screaming.” But it stayed eerily quiet. Finally, we heard some whimpering. Then three girls and a boy trooped out of the shot room, followed by mom.
Mom corralled the kids outside the door. Then she looked at us as we sat awaiting our shots. She said to the kids, “Tell them it wasn’t so bad.” Instantly four little faces turned to us and a choir of little voices, including one that belonged to a tear-stained face, chorused, “It wasn’t so bad!” in perfect tune and in perfect unison. Then they all grinned, three blonde little girls and a curly-headed young black boy – a family full of love. We all smiled back as the family marched out the door – and we went in for our shots.
My husband and I talked about being serenaded by these children at least three times in the next half hour. I really wish I had been able to capture on video the second those children turned to us as one and offered us comfort. As I reflected on the whole scenario, I was impressed by this young mother’s calm behavior with these four little ones in her care. I realized that she had turned every moment into a teachable (and holy) moment.
She impressed the need for safety on one child by thanking her for being careful. She taught another child about social values without even lifting her head from the form and carefully explaining that we don’t use mean words about people. She taught the whole crew to be responsible for themselves by teaching them to unwrap a sucker. She helped them face a possible fearful moment by matter-of-factly leading the kids in for their shots. Finally she helped them replace any fear they may have about a doctor’s visit by encouraging them to offer us (and themselves) reassurance .
Later I remembered watching a TV show in which a 20-something young woman was waiting for her first experience of helping birth a foal. Mom did most of the work herself, but as the girl came in the stall, she raised the foal to its feet and began putting her hands on its face and neck and rubbing them on his back. Then she placed him so he could begin nursing. She explained that she was “imprinting” this newborn. By helping him feel comfortable with her touch and her good intentions, she was teaching him that humans (at least this human) could be trusted.
I decided that my holy moment was all about a young mother imprinting her children with love, respect, independence, and a positive attitude. I wish I could live next door to this young family so I could watch her work her magic and observe the kids grow into loving, respectful, independent, and positive young people.