This is a guest post by Antonia Nedder.
A few years ago, my husband and I and our three children were on vacation in Whitefish, Montana, thousands of miles from home. My children were fourteen, twelve, and ten years old that summer. It was a Sunday, and we had planned to attend church. It had always been a priority of mine to attend church while we were on vacation, to take some time to be thankful for the blessings of being on vacation and to show our children that it was important to do so. I had noticed a Catholic church on the way to our hotel the day before, and I had looked up the service times after we checked in. My children were well aware that this was our routine; if we happened to be on vacation on a Sunday, we would, if at all possible, be going to church.
On the way back from some sightseeing, we stopped at the church. My oldest daughter, however, all but refused to get out of the car. She thought it was unnecessary to drag the whole family to church while on vacation and could not understand why we insisted on doing this every time we were away. After a rather significant period of time during which I offered a clear explanation, which quickly turned to lecture, and then an exasperated directive, we all finally emerged from our rental car and walked toward the church, with my oldest daughter complaining all the way. My husband volunteered to continue dealing with her while I went in to find seats with our two younger children. It took an awfully long time for my husband and daughter to join us and by that time my nerves were frayed. My husband finally appeared and whispered that our daughter had gotten a rather large nosebleed and she had used up all of the tissues they could find. Frustrated, I got up, said I would handle it, and traded places with my husband. I left the church and found my daughter outside, trying to stave off the nosebleed. As I watched her, I felt a moment of sympathy. But mostly, I was exasperated that she had gotten her way and now was, in fact, not attending church.
We began walking around the little town, looking in vain for a store to purchase some more tissues. At some point the bleeding finally stopped. And it was around that time that my daughter noticed them…
A family had set up a makeshift fruit stand by the side of the road. A mother holding a baby, a father, and two young girls were selling bags of cherries from a few plastic folding chairs and a small table. Their dress and manner indicated that there might be a reason that they were selling cherries on the street from plastic chairs. It did not appear that they were selling very much that day.
“Mom, we have to go buy some cherries,” said my daughter.
“What are we going to do with cherries?” I said to her. “We don’t need cherries. They’re not going to keep in the hotel room. And we don’t even know where those cherries came from.”
“Mom, we really have to buy some of those cherries from those people,” she insisted.
And so, I reached into my purse, gave her some money, and we walked over to the family. She gave the money to the young girls and received some cherries in return. As we walked back toward the church, my daughter seemed very happy to be carrying her plastic bag of cherries. And I, no longer exasperated, was somewhat amazed at how things had turned out. Yes, my daughter had missed church. But I felt like I received a great lesson about her that day. And about myself, and about what it means to have a giving heart.
By the time we walked back to the church, we had missed most of the service. But it didn’t really matter. We had had our church, right there on the street in Whitefish, Montana, buying cherries at a plastic chair fruit stand.
Antonia Nedder is a mom, musician, writer, and lawyer. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children. Her favourite passions, besides her family, are leading music programmes for the St. Francis House homeless shelter, and writing her blog, Inspirational Sweets.
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