Recently while approaching a store escalator, I noticed a woman with a girl, about 4, in front of me. The woman with her stepped on, but then the child quickly slipped her hand out from the woman’s grasp and stood still. I saw a look of dread on the child’s face and observed she was not going to get on, even as the woman’s body began to go up the escalator.
In that instant I could have stayed with the child while her mother rode up and then came back down the other side. But the child would have lost sight of the one in whose care she was. Would the child start to cry? Scream? Should I pick her up? I saw the woman look as though she would try to walk back down the moving stairs—a dangerous decision because she was already going rapidly upward.
Usually a child should not go with a stranger, nor should a stranger approach a child, but this time it seemed different. This minute called for trust and action. So I reached out my hand to the girl and she reached back and took my hand. I held it and said, “Let’s get on. It will be fine.” She and I took a step together. And up we went. I talked, quietly, calmly. “We’re safe. See your—your—mother?” (The woman nodded back—she was the girl’s mother—I would not have wanted to be wrong about that and frighten the child even more.) “She is right there in front of us. She is going up. We are going up right behind her. She is safe. We are safe.”
I just kept talking. I did not overly promise, saying such things as “Aren’t we having fun?” Simply, “We’re going up.” The girl did not look at me. Her eyes were fixed on her mother and her mother’s eyes were fixed on her. A trusting bond. The mother did not say anything. It was as if she knew the girl’s hand was safe in mine, and the very best thing was to simply remain quiet and calm, although she was an unreachable distance beyond. I then said, “Your mother is almost at the top. Very soon we will be at the top. Here we are. All is well.” I put the girl’s hand back into her mother’s hand and she said, “Thank you,” and away they went.
But I saw them around the corner of the counter and they both waved back with smiles.
How do we place not only our children but each other at any age in each other’s care responsibly? What is a call to ministry in the midst of a fearful culture?
Knowing God is our Good Shepherd, how do we become shepherds? Knowing we have a trustworthy God, how do we take a hand, take steps together, and build trust?Everist's latest book is “Seventy Images of Grace in the Epistles That Make All the Difference in Daily Life.”