After the New Year’s Mass I had the opportunity to go down and celebrate Christmas with my brother and his family. He had gone to the in-laws Christmas day and we hadn’t had a chance to connect. I got there mid-afternoon and the little ones were able to open the presents I had got them. Having a celibate uncle means that they have the joy every year of opening a gift wrapped either in a brown paper bag stapled at the top or, as was the case this year, two white garbage bags because princess Cinderella and her pony don’t fit in a brown bag. The littlest one is seven months old and didn’t get a gift because as my little nephew said, “You have to be a big girl and not a baby to open presents.”
The gifts were opened within three seconds and the party had started. I spent most of the day helping little Andrew build his Lego Batman car and princess Cinderella was quickly overshadowed by a Doc McStuffins doctor set, oh well. It was a great day, full of great memories, but one in particular sticks out and it is one that I think can be insightful for us all. After dinner the two oldest were getting into all sorts of mischief and had received the reward of cleaning their room. At one point my little niece came running out saying she needed her flashlight, which had been confiscated because she kept shining it in people’s eyes. It was what she did in response to my brother explaining why she couldn’t have it back that caught my attention.
She was told that she had lost the flashlight because she didn’t know how to follow directions. She immediately dropped into a half crouch and put on her prettiest face pleading, “But Daddddddy, I need it because we lost a truck and need to find it.” After another round of explanation, “But Daddddddy, we can’t see in the dark and need to be able to see to find things.” Another explanation and, “But Daaadddddy, Andy needs his truck and I need to find it.” At which point her brother found the truck without use of the flashlight and she scampered off to play again.
What struck me was not only her approach, much more sophisticated than I thought possible for a three year old, but also her persistence. She didn’t use a whine but rather what I would deem a genuine pleading tone hitting the inflections just right as to get maximum pity points. She clearly was trying to appeal to the love she knew was buried somewhere in that cold heart of my brother. She must have thought all he really needed was a little warming before he would realize the righteousness of her position. It struck me how much like our relationship with God this whole episode was. Would that we all had the confidence and conviction to call out to our Father in such a way. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.
Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen