For me, every hour is grace.
• Elie Wiesel
When you take a 5-year old to a birthday party, you talk to her on the way. You talk about friends and special days and presents. You talk about manners and shaking hands and remembering to go potty. You talk about taking turns and going slow and being kind.
You remind her that you’ll be there the whole time, so she doesn’t have to worry. She’s not in this by herself. She’ll probably get overwhelmed and she’ll probably get tired and certainly hungry… but you’ll remind her she is not alone.
You’re ready. You arrive and you help her put on princess dresses like the rest of the girls and you watch her twirl and giggle and clap.
She’s stunning, really. Paying attention. Listening well. Using glue appropriately. She’s doing… amazing.
And then it’s time for musical chairs. You stand to the side and you wonder how this will go… if she’ll understand the game, if she’ll cry when it’s her turn to lose, if this is the beginning of the end. But she laughs! And she skips! And she even wins a few rounds. When it’s her turn to step out, she spins on the sidelines.
She’s stunning, really. She’s doing amazing.
But now there are only 2 girls and 1 chair. And the tone has changed. The universal-mom in you feels the tension build. As the girls stop circling and, instead, guarding the last chair, you step in to lighten the mood… and you move the chair! They have to run to a new spot! And the two princesses chase you to win at all costs. You’re smart, though… you’re a mom. So you move the chair again.
And that’s when the Birthday Princess misses the chair and falls to the ground. She might even get up and run to a corner, embarrassed. She might… she might even refuse to play any more games for a bit.
And her uncle might have video-taped the whole thing. Because what is a birthday party if there’s not proof of your mom’s friend knocking you down at your 5th birthday party in front of all your friends in your princess dress?
When you drive home from a birthday party with your 5-year old, you praise her for having a remarkable day. And you quietly thank God above for the strange grace of having a silent child and friends that love you.
Even when you knock their kid down.
Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.
• Francis of Assisi