Forever the joy – The love of a child

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The delight of a child’s laughter brings joy and hope into the world. That childlike love and innocence give us a guide to the love that our Father in Heaven asks of us all – an unconditional love that lights up the world. Lord, grant us the grace to live a life of childlike love!

At that very moment He rejoiced [in] the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will” (Lk 10:21).

The time is in late May and the man has been traveling once again for a few days away from the family on a business trip. Anticipating his return home, the man settles into the small jet sitting on the hot Houston airport tarmac. Looking up from his window seat, he notices a tall, exhausted burly man boarding the plane. This man’s greying hair and scruffy beard seem to add to the tired expression on his face as he settles into a blue pleather window seat three rows in front of the man. Discomfort crowns his brow.

Within moments of taking their seats, the flight attendant distracts the passengers with her announcement of emergency procedures. From the flat tone in her voice, the man cannot help thinking that she too is looking forward to returning home. Soon, they will all leave the ground as the jet shudders with a great buzz and groan. The short flight, less than one hour, will arrive at their final destination in Lafayette, Louisiana in no time. The man finds himself thinking, Perfect time for a catnap, as he pushes his own blue pleather seat back toward a reclining position and props his weary head against the window. Sleep comes easy, even on an airplane.

Despite the genteel sound of her voice, the flight attendant soon startles the man from his deep slumber.

“Sir, sir,” she states, “can you pull your seat back up? We are about to land.”

Leaping forward in his seat, the man responds, “I am sorry. I was sound asleep.”

Smiling again, the flight attendant moves forward three rows and wakes up the burly man as well. Although still early in the week, feeling tired seems common on this quick flight for all homeward-bound passengers. 

The jet lands with a bounce as the tires come to a squeaking halt. Exiting the plane, the late spring heat seeps through the cracks between the gangway and the jet, adding to the heaviness of the tired passengers’ luggage. Summer has arrived early in the South.

As the passengers round the corner of the long metal gangway leading to the terminal in the small Lafayette International Airport, the arrival of Flight #6331 from Houston is announced over the loudspeaker. Passengers plod through the airport gates as the hot sun blazing in the sky penetrates the hurricane-proof glass of the airport. The sun does not rest at this time of year until after 8:00pm. In the distance, the mature and excited voice of a woman can be heard.

“There he is! Look, do you see him? Pawpaw is here!”

Waiting for Pawpaw are both his wife and his overjoyed four-year-old granddaughter. In response to hearing of his arrival, the little girl giggles with such exuberant laughter that all the departing passengers join her in laughing or smiling.

The girl yells in her sweet, innocent little voice, “Pawpaw, Pawpaw!”

With each step the burly man takes, the gleeful giggles increase to fever pitch. Pawpaw is clearly the exhausted man from the small jet plane, thinks the man.

All of a sudden, the happy calls of his granddaughter dawn upon the burly man. He develops a new skip in his step and increases his pace steadily to a near run. MawMaw, in response, has to restrain their overjoyed granddaughter from running the wrong way through security and setting off alarms. The excited titter of the child reaches a grand crescendo as the burly man’s wife releases the little girl. In turn, she breaks out into a full run, her light brown ponytail bouncing in the air, as she leaps headlong into Pawpaw’s ready arms. Hardly a dry eye can be seen in the terminal and hushed whispers are heard from the people.

“Did you see that?! How wonderful!”

Pawpaw smiles with pride and joy, moving forward with renewed vigor through the airport to retrieve his checked luggage. At such a sight of unconditional love, the man thinks to himself, The world needs more children. They light up the world and soften its coarse edges.

At the luggage claim conveyor belt, Pawpaw stands next to the man in order to retrieve his bags, while MawMaw holds the bright-eyed smiling child. The flashing of the red light signals caution as the conveyor belt moans under the stress of an unseen pulley system, placing it in motion and delivering well-worn luggage to the hovering travelers.

The man, in a moment of unrestrained impulse, cannot help but lean over to the burly man and comment, “That is some greeting party you have there!”

Pawpaw replies, “It really is. I get it every six weeks when I come home.”

The man asks, “What do you do?”

Distracted while looking for his bag, the burly man replies, “I work offshore as a roughneck. I am gone four weeks, then home two weeks.”

“That’s hard work. Well, that sure is a nice greeting party to come home to. You are blessed,” the man states as he looks for his own luggage. Pawpaw nods in agreement as the man adds, “God is good.”

At that, Pawpaw seems to pause, a little surprised by the mention of God in the conversation. Then dawns a great smile.

He responds, “Yes, He is. He truly is! Have a good one.”

And picking up his bag, the burly man turns and hugs MawMaw, then gives his beaming little granddaughter a kiss on the forehead.

God is, indeed, good, thinks the man.

Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose mercy endures forever (Ps 106:1).