A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend three days down at the beach with my family. All the brothers were there, along with Mom, Dad and my brother’s wife and kids; my sister was on a personal vacation somewhere else. My older brother has three kids now: a four-year-old-boy, a three-year-old girl and another girl who is only a few months old. We do this same vacation each year and it’s fun to see the kids grow and do new things each year. This was the first year we were able to get them to use swim rings in the pool, meaning the adults didn’t have to walk around with a spider monkey clinging to their neck.
One morning I was on beach patrol as the two older ones had their daily ration of fun in the sand. Now I know I have told all of you I love to dig and any time I get around sand I hit the ground and start burrowing, Though I have to say my enthusiasm was a little curbed this year due to a story going around of a man who had dug a ten-foot deep hole only to die when the sides collapsed, that very easily could have been me. Anyway on this particular day as the kids played I was digging away having a joy of a time.
Anyone with kids can tell you that the most fun activity for any kid is the one that some adult is doing quietly and today was no different. First my little niece came over to see what I was doing. Now when I dig I smooth out all the sand around the edge of the hole so as to minimize the amount of loose sand that slides in. As she came over she put her little footprints all through the smoothed area and flopped down next to me knocking sand in the hole. It was what she did next that really stuck in my mind. She grabbed a handful of sand and threw it in the hole. Then she turned to me and said, “Uncle Father Joe I’m helping, I’m helping Uncle Father Joe!”
Now what is a guy to do? This sweet little kid clearly knows nothing about digging holes, but she is genuine, so of course I replied, “You certainly are, thank you.” It made me think though, here this kid is clueless and is doing the exact opposite of what I am doing yet thinks that she is helping and I loved her for it. Isn’t it pretty much the same with God and us? We think we are sooo important doing our little things when most of the time we are probably doing the exact opposite of what God would do, and He loves us for it. My niece couldn’t have been any more wrong if she had tried and had no idea; we pretty much do the same thing day in and day out in our interactions with God. We probably screw things up more often than we actually get it right and think we are such good little citizens of Heaven. One day my little niece will grow up and will think that digging holes with Uncle Father Joe is a waste of time, but today she is happy to “help” and I’m happy to let her wreck things all she wants. No wonder God tells us to be like children.
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen