By Holly Culhane
It was completely unexpected. I hadn’t anticipated the moment when our nine-year-old granddaughter would look up at me in the middle of an amusement park in complete panic. She couldn’t even speak. I recognized the rattled look in her eyes and immediately asked what was wrong. “Oh, Gaga, I left my backpack on the last ride! Oh, no! What am I gonna do?” This wasn’t just an inquiry of mild concern, but one that, for her, was truly serious. In typical grandparent fashion, with hugs and quick action, I reassured her that I was sure it could be located (and secretly hoped for the best). Her mama quickly headed to the location where she last had her precious pack to check with the staff.
By the look on our dear girl’s face, I knew what she was thinking. Her parents hadn’t wanted her to carry the backpack that day. They knew it wasn’t necessary and, at nine years of age – even as responsible as this young one tends to be – it was likely something like this would happen. But she was determined to be as grown up as the others on the trip, and they conceded with parental wisdom and warnings.
As we walked with the others to the next ride and waited for her mama to return, she continued to worry and fret over whether the treasured pack with all the important items a nine-year-old carries was gone forever. I tried to reassure her that all would be good and to try and be patient for the outcome. You know, the routine let’s-take-one-moment-at-a-time kind of conversation.
Just minutes later, the pack was safely on her back, and one could sense the enormous relief that enveloped our sweet little grand. Then, moments later, I had a terrible feeling come over me. Amid the panic and the concern and reassurance, I had neglected to take the most important step … the one thing I normally do when I lose something and experience that panicked moment.
I had neglected to stop and, with her by my side, hand in hand – in the middle of an amusement park – ask the Good Shepherd for His assistance. I had neglected to live out the verse, as we had simplified it when she was just two years old and talked about so often in the ensuing years: “Worry about nothing. Pray about everything.” At a time when this young one needed more peace than her Gaga could provide, as well as an example for her future, I had missed it.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Yes, these are evil days. And, yes, setting an example for those we influence, those whose lives we impact – those we shepherd – is of the utmost importance.
How grateful I am for the Father’s mercy and grace! And for the love of a precious granddaughter.
When the evening had calmed a bit, I took her aside and explained that I owed her an apology. She was surprised. I tried to help her understand that as a Gaga that loves Jesus, I had a responsibility and a desire to shepherd her well and set a good example for her … and that I’d missed something. I explained further. With the grace like only one who loves me “a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck” can offer, her quick upbeat retort said it all .. at least from her perspective, “Oh, Gaga, that’s okay!” Hugs, smiles, and more reassurance came quickly.
I’m sure the lesson here was much more for me than her. The reminder that unforeseen opportunities are around every corner. With our friends, colleagues, team members, volunteers, parishioners, Board members, and family. With the receptionist at the doctor’s office, the grocery checker at the market, the person in the vehicle next to us. We simply need to be ready. Our hearts in tune to the Father’s. So that we can in fact, as under-shepherds – at the drop of a hat or the loss of a backpack – make the most of every opportunity.