It is the last week of serving “my” little church. Of course, it has never been my church. That it is my last week is yet another indicator of that. It has been a church I have had the great fortune and blessing to serve – and even before I am done with my studies and granted ordination.
It is the last weeks and it is full of attention to my upcoming departure. Just over a week ago I preached on loving, holding on, and then letting go. This past Friday, there was a poignant and fun good-bye party that had live music, along with laughter, tears, and hugs.
Today, I spent the afternoon with a couple of extra special good-byes. One of which was with an 11 year-old. I was glad to do it, glad for the opportunity. It was not particularly time-consuming and today was a sunny day. Out of this visit came a lesson that I hope to carry as part of my ministerial formation.
Earlier this morning, I went to my local library this morning and imposed my inquiries on a way-too-nice children’s librarian, hoping she would find me a good-bye picture book that was not about death. No luck. There were books about moving, but these were mostly from the point of view of the person moving, not from the person staying behind while someone else (a good friend, a beloved neighbor, a friendly minister,…) moves away.
Eventually I settled on a book called Toot and Puddle, by Holly Hobbie. It is about two friends, one who stays home and one who goes out on adventures in the world. If I didn’t read the end (when they reunite), I thought it would be a good jumping off point for our own good-bye.
When I arrived, my little friend had other plans. She wanted to go for a walk. So this we did, first getting her mother’s permission, walking to her school nearby, where I got the grand tour. The secret passage way on the side of the building. The little kids’ playground. The garden with its planters made from recycled (well, really, re-used) plastic gallon jugs cut to hold potting soil. Then, the pièce de résistance: the big kids’ playground.
All the truly important parts of the school.
I realized, as I finished up this tour of the truly important parts of the school, that I had received a very different tour than if this child’s mother had been my guide. Or if the principal had been. No doubt I missed some aspects of the school that those people – those grown-ups – would have thought essential. Would have thought truly important.
But if they had been my only tour guides, I’m pretty sure I would have missed out on the playground. At least in the way I got to see it and feel it. Which is to say, I didn’t just admire the slide. Along with my 11-year-old friend, I went down it. Down the twisty one.
When I step into the next church I serve, and the next, and all that are to follow, I hope I remember this last week lesson and apply it to my first week. I hope I remember to pick my tour guides very carefully. I hope I remember to pick my tour guides not just from among all the adults offering so graciously, but also from the children.
My guess is that if I don’t, I will be missing out on some truly important stuff.