For the Living of These Days—A Word from Jim England

Last week, I spoke at a camp for runners held on church grounds in Indiana. The invitation came from a friend, a young woman I met when she was a teenager at a church where I was the interim pastor. Now grown, married, and the mother of two beautiful children, she uses her talent for organizing and love of running to create this camp for children to introduce them to running. I would be last on the program.

I watched the activities. All were fun and used running for that fun. For some of elementary school age, this was their first introduction to running. For the middle schoolers who are already running in competition, it was a chance to learn something new or just be reminded to have fun.

The sun was warm. The breeze was sweet. I had time to watch. I saw a little girl, too young to be a camper, looking around with a look of fear on her face. I asked if I could help her. She said, “My mom said she was coming right back, but she didn’t.” She stared in the direction of the church building. I looked around, then directed her attention to a group of parents sitting in the shade. “Is that your mom over there?” “Yes!” Off she went. Crisis averted.

A few minutes passed. The same little girl tries working a puzzle, the kind of puzzle with really large pieces. We sat on concrete warmed by the sun and assembled the pieces until a fish emerged. We tossed a ball made to look like a giant tennis ball. A worker asked me to watch her toddler for a few minutes. We included her in the ball tossing. The toddler could hold the ball but lacked the strength to throw it. The older girl throttled her own desire to rip the ball away with only minimal reminding.

I gave my reflection to the whole group about the “birds of the air” and the “lilies of the field” and paying attention to what was around us when we run. And who. Notice one’s own feelings and remember others feel the same way. Perhaps that knowledge helps us celebrate with them when they win. Maybe we learn to keep ourselves in perspective.

I don’t know what they will remember from my being there. Probably not much. Yet, I wonder if the most important things I did were noticing a child who misplaced her mom or tossing a big ball or working a puzzle on warm concrete. I wonder if I sometimes let the doing of “big” things obscure the value of “little things”.