I woke this morning with a memory of a little girl and Vacation Bible School. There was a tropical theme that year, and we had gone all out on decorations. In the center of a large display stood a cardboard volcano with red and orange tissue paper “lava” coming out the top. As our mission offering grew each day, more tissue paper would issue forth to indicate our growing response.
Early in the week I was walking past this display with a little girl. Her eyes lit up as she told me that she knew that by week’s end that volcano would erupt, spewing lava out the top. As we stood holding hands looking at that cardboard volcano I knew two things. What she saw was something much more than cardboard and tissue paper. And I, The Keeper of the Volcano, had four days to figure out how to show her that her faith was not in vain.
Before Friday came, the girl’s mother discovered my little friend had a case of head lice. She did not get to see the five cans of silly string that one of our youth happily sprayed out the top from his perch inside the cardboard volcano. She missed the fun of having the sticky string rain down upon her as she sat cross-legged on the floor nearby, but because of her vision her friends didn’t miss out.
The kids sang at church that Sunday, then we all sat at the front of the church while I told the story of our week together. I had this little girl move by my side and wrapped my arm around her as I told about the volcano eruption her faith had inspired. I explained that though I had no idea how it would happen, once I saw her complete faith, I too believed it would.
The next day, I received a note from her mother. I didn’t realize they nearly skipped church that day, or that when they did arrive the mother viewed the two of them as dirty and unworthy because of the lice issue. She was ashamed. I have worked with children for so long, I understand that lice are a reality of childhood and had not given a single thought to the lice that morning. Instead, I was thinking about a little girl who had demonstrated faith.
The mother’s note humbled me as she went on to say that my embrace of her little girl at the front of the congregation touched her as evidence of God’s grace. She gave me far too much credit. The child had taught me about faith that week and my embrace of her was simply gratitude. I felt grateful to her mother as well. Her note was a poignant reminder that though we can’t know the burdens a person carries with them, we will never go wrong greeting others with kindness and grace.