While in D.C. for meetings, my husband Joe and I visited my niece Megan and her three children—Sawyer (7), Cash (5) and baby Norah. As we drove up, we found them across from their home, gathering with neighbors around a sleeping cement truck. “They’ll be pouring soon,” said the homeowner as the truck woke. It groaned. It churned. Yet after twenty minutes—no cement, The neighbors gave up and left. But Sawyer and Cash jumped up and down and moved in closer.
“Two more minutes then we’ll go inside,” said Megan. The heat, a sweltering eighty-eight degrees suggested this was, indeed, the prudent thing to do. “Oh no, we’ll wait,” Joe and I said together. ”You don’t mind?” asked Megan. Stubbornness is a family trait. If two hopelessly active little boys were willing to stand on a hot sidewalk and wait, we would stand with them. The truck roared then shuttered. At last concrete began to flow down a scarred chute into a giant wheelbarrow Cash climbed on his mother’s back to better see. Sawyer danced triple time, grinning from ear to ear. In thirty seconds, it was over.
Only a child would find delight in watching a cement truck churn for a half hour with so little to show for it but our willingness to share this delight with them won them over. Inside, Cash took my hand and showed me his homeschool room. “I like numbers best,” he said. Next, we toured the backyard where the massive arm of an old tree held a two-person swing. Joe pushed the boys as hard as he could. Cash took a tumble onto the grass while Sawyer, throwing his body weight into the arc, begged to go higher. Over lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant, a quiet squabble over crayons and matchbox cars tested the boys’ patience. Mom’s too. “You can’t just take something because you want it,” Megan said as she helped them pull themselves together. When the waiter came, both boys looked him in eye and with pleases and thank you’s, ordered. We got in a half hour of grown-up talk while Miss Norah entertained us with smiles and hugs. On the way back, Joe insisted on a quick trip to the gas station—an excuse to fill up Megan’s car. Joe is a generous man who shows his love in practical ways. Once home, there was just time for the boys to show off on their bikes before we had to go. Cash began to cry, not wanting us to leave. “Wait, I have to get something,” said Sawyer. He disappeared, his brother followed. They returned with crudely folded papers held together by glittered tape.
“This is for you,” said Sawyer, handing one to me and one to Joe. Cash did the same. Through a gap in the paper I glimpsed a dollar bill. Were these children giving us cash? My first impulse was to refuse it. But to refuse the money was to deny the children a greater gift—the opportunity to give. They told us to wait until we left to open the papers. They sought no recognition or even gratitude. Their gift was simply an expression of love. Back in the hotel room we discovered they’d given us five single dollar bills. Most, if not all, of what they had. I’m still reeling from the purity and extravagance of those gifts. I’m humbled, broken. I’m ashamed to say that too often, my gifts come with strings and expectations. God forgive me.
Jesus said, “… unless you become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of God.” I understand now what he meant. I’ve never felt closer to God’s kingdom than I did that day, accepting from the hand of a child, his most precious treasure. I want to love like that. I want to give like that. In this time where the powerful seek to impose their will and beliefs on others through intimidation and vitriol, two little boys remind us the kingdom of God rules through love. God’s love does not impose—it transforms, it woos, it inspires, it serves, it gives. When the followers of Jesus pray, “Our Father who art in heaven… thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking for the power to love extravagantly as Cash and Sawyer have done. Such love is a gift our world desperately needs.