If We Are The Body, I Might Be a Thumb

Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.

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I’m not a “kid person.”

love children. I love treating them like the tiny humans that they are. I love asking them what’s going on in their wild, unfettered imaginations. Heck, I even agreed to skateboard with Idelette’s 6-year-old last month (turns out, a decade later, I’ve still got some skills).

But…

I’m not the person who walks into a room and looks for a baby to pick up. I’m not the woman who considered teaching elementary school as a profession. I try to avoid the children’s church sign-up sheets. (Even though I’ve totally gotten roped into a few stints with the 2-year-old class and a couple years as a high school youth group leader.)

I like grown-ups. I like the ones with gritty pasts and messy, grace-laden presents and dream-filled, wild futures. I like the ones who are broken and disheveled, like me. Who aren’t afraid of real talk and swear words.

That’s where I want to make camp.

So when my friend Sarah asked me if there was any way I could stay overnight with her kids a couple days a week when she ended up with a particularly busy schedule as a flight attendant, I paused…

I sat on the question and thought, I’m good with kids, but is this something I want to do?

I wasn’t so sure.

But I said yes.

There aren’t too many times I’ve felt like I’m right where I’m meant to be. I’m usually sitting in the margins—not quite fitting into the mold that a 20-something woman should fit into. I’m parked in the camp between the young-college-singles and the married-with-kids-crowd. I’m lost between the liturgical church and evangelicalism. I’m wading through difficult politics and slippery theology. I’m not family-oriented and I’m not really career-oriented. I’m a half-deflated balloon—a drifter. A crazy, lost, confused creative-type hippie.

And that made me perfect for this job.

Sarah was going to be hard-pressed to find a responsible adult with a flexible schedule who didn’t mind being paid in occasional flight vouchers instead of cash-monies to keep an eye on a couple teenage girls and mediate the conflicts of two little boys. What kind of drifting balloon would have time to do that anyway?

Oh, me.

I said yes because I am a part of the church. Not a specific church denomination, but a member of this organism we call The Church. If we really believe The Church is a body, then in that moment I knew I was a helping hand (or at least an opposable thumb)—Sarah’s hand was going to work so much better if the thumb did what a thumb does.

And that’s why I said yes. Because there have been a whole lot of people willing to love me and sacrifice for me and act as the body when my own wasn’t enough. There have been times when I couldn’t give back and people loved me anyway.

You see, sometimes being a part of community isn’t fun. But it is still beautiful. And sometimes a little boy with some special needs and his hyper-active explosion of a brother can make life really exhausting. And in the same moment those crazy boys can make life brilliant.

Sometimes you do things you don’t want to do. And you do them because you are learning the ways of love and sacrifice.

Here I am. Almost two years into a very part-time gig as a quasi-nanny to two brilliant and crazy boys and their sisters (who don’t actually need a thing from me). And I am positive I am getting the best part of this deal.

Sarah gets an adult to manage the wild banshees while she’s away. But I get to learn the way of charity, patience, self-control, the mom eye and lowering my voice. I get to practice tackle-hugs and pillow forts and reading upside-down so everyone can still see the pictures. I get to laugh until I cry and wander through the house dodging tiny trucks and turning off all the lights.

I’m not sure if anyone will ever call me beloved, but there’s a boy who shouts my name when he sees me and wraps his arms around my neck and asks about my job. And I’m not sure if I’ll ever settle down and have a family, but there’s a just-turned-9-year-old who asks if I’ll read him bedtime stories and needs help with his homework sometimes.

And my days at Sarah’s house remind me why I still love this weird thing we call The Body.

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