Today, was my week to volunteer in the nursery at church. I was feeling a little nervous when I received this email:
We were setting up the room for a huge crowd when my middle son asked if he could stay to help. I work on the infant side. I didn’t think it would bother anyone if he stayed and he could probably be helpful shaking a rattle or getting me a wipe. When the head teacher came in though, she said he had to stay on the toddler side because he wasn’t 16 years old. At first, he went to the far corner of the room; he looked lost – his plans altered from what he had envisioned. I asked if he wanted me to text his dad to come get him. No. Do you want to play my phone? Yes. After a few minutes though, I tentatively asked, Buddy, can you play ball with Joey? I’ll give you extra video time at home if you just try.
He handed back my phone. He tentatively started to play ball with this little one who had been crying. After a few tosses, the boy stopped crying and showed a shy smile. Next, my son was poking his head through a tunnel, coaxing – come on, you can do it. Only 30 seconds later, an 11-month-old dressed in her Easter best popped her head out of the same end.
And that’s the way it went: he played with one child for a few minutes, then he’d move to another child. He sought out the quieter ones. Before long, the other adults in the room were calling for him to play with a child, or get a toy that had fallen just out of reach, or guard the door with the broken gate while they were serving snacks, or clean up Xavier’s dropped fish crackers.
I watched as he found his place among the “walkers” and the adults. I was on the other side, helping infants stand, bringing them toys, and changing diapers. One mom commented that he was really good with the little kids. A dad said to him, thanks for your help, buddy.
He said goodbye to the kids who he played with when their parents came to retrieve them. He helped clean up the room so that middle school health class could resume on Tuesday.
“This was the best Sunday ever. Thanks for letting me help you, Mom. When do you volunteer again?”