My 3-year-old daughter was tugging on a corner of the tie-dye T-shirt I had pulled over my head two hours earlier. “VOLUNTEER,” it noted on the back.
“I want to go home, Mom.”
All around us, elementary-aged kids were working on arts-and-crafts projects. Glitter, watercolors and stickers covered the tables. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,” a banner proclaimed.
I squeezed Anna’s hand. “I need to take just a few more pictures.” The church’s camera drooped from a scratchy strap around my neck.
Anna flopped onto a chair.
I had offered to help out with any last-minute details for my older daughter’s Vacation Bible School that week. The last-minute detail I had been assigned: photographing moments from the week-long summer program for the last-day slideshow. Anna was my unofficial (and at times, reluctant) assistant.
I snapped a few candids. Group shots are best, the program’s directors had advised.
“I’m tired of volunteering, Mom.”
“I know, honey.”
“I want a snack, Mom.”
“In a minute, Anna.”
“Mom…I think I need to tinkle…I do need to tinkle, Mom!”
I grabbed Anna’s hand, and we ran to a restroom, the camera bopping against my chest in time with our flip-flopped footsteps. As I helped Anna onto a toilet, and then waited for her in the cramped stall, the thought crossed my mind: Things could be going smoother. (Note: This isn’t the first time this thought has crossed my mind, since becoming a parent.)
A little later, Anna and I picked up Grace. “Mom and I were volunteering,” Anna told her 6-year-old sister, adding, “It was boring.”
I groaned as the three of us weaved our way outside to the car. I hoped the VBS folks didn’t overhear Anna’s commentary.
Now Grace was tugging on my T-shirt.
“What, honey?” I searched through my bag for the car keys. Wallet, phone, the girls’ combs, lots of chocolate-chip granola bars…
“I’m happy you were here today, Mom.”
“Awww.” I stopped and smiled at Grace. “Why, honey?”
Grace smiled back. “I liked seeing you around.”
I definitely was a sight that day, with the camera and Anna in tow. What Grace said touched my heart, though. What she said, and how she felt—and how she made me feel, which was happy—made the craziness worth it.
“I liked seeing you around.”
Two days later, a good friend of mine shared the happy news that she and her husband were the new parents of a baby boy. They had been waiting a long time for this baby, and I was (am!) so happy for them. Worth the wait, I thought when I saw his picture.
Sometimes, we may wonder if what we’re doing is worth it.
The question comes to us in cramped bathroom stalls—in doctors’ offices—in the dead of night when we can’t fall asleep, our minds racing with worry and our hearts heavy with pain. Is…this…worthwhile?
It can be hard sometimes to answer that question with a “yes.” This, whatever it is we’re in the middle of, may not feel worth it, at the time. Maybe it even feels like a mistake.
And then someone tells you they’re glad you were there. Your being there—simply being—mattered. Or you witness something beautiful. The gift of a child…friendship…kindness. And you recognize that this is the good part.
Getting to the good part may be a rocky road, with red lights and rerouting along the way.
Things can happen that hurt us, break our hearts, maybe even break pieces of us. Maybe we feel broken for a time. I’ve felt that way sometimes; I imagine every human being has.
Maybe we make peace with the hurt, the heartbreak, the broken pieces. Or we ignore it and move forward. Or we never get over the pain, but move forward anyway. There are thousands of different ways to respond because we’re all different, and we do life differently.
There are thousands of ways but no best way to make sense of the bad part.
When the good part comes, though, hopefully we find joy in it.
There are thousands of different ways to respond because we’re all different, and we do life differently.
On Saturday evening, Stanton, the girls and I had dinner in the backyard. We tried a new recipe, grilled shrimp tacos. After a crazy week, the grass under our feet and gently waning sunlight felt heavenly. “This is one of my favorite things,” I shared with my family. Being outside, being together.
“Me too,” Stanton said.
Anna looked up from her taco. “But what about ice cream?”
“I do like ice cream,” Stanton said.
“Yeah, that’s my favorite thing,” Anna said.
Grace nodded. “But dinner’s good, Dad.”
What are your favorite things, friends? What are the good parts? Whatever they are, I hope you enjoy them—I hope you find joy in them.
And I hope you know that you may be someone’s favorite. You may be the good part in someone’s life, even if they haven’t told you yet. Even if they haven’t been born yet.
Keep moving forward.
P.S. The answer is yes—it’s worth it.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.