I had a great conversation on the phone yesterday with my 12 year old grandaughter, Tabitha. “Remember that idea you had about organizing kids’ stuff like a library?” she started. I told her that I did. Then she told me about her project of doing just that with the books, toys and puzzles in her household and creating a “check-out” system for her brothers and sisters. This started us talking about our common love of sorting stuff. Now that might not seem like a big deal to you, but others with the passion to sort will know what I am talking about.
I told Tabitha of the day when the early childhood agency I was working for had to pack up to move to a new location. We are talking hundreds of toys and games with small pieces that over the years have gotten mislocated or broken. I was new to the program, so identifying a small plastic thingamajig from behind a cabinet and matching it with it’s master toy was not something I could do. Nor was I able to distinguish between which items that needed to be discarded or stored and items needed to be kept available for use in the new classrooms. Feeling pretty useless, I happened upon two large drawers of stickers. I asked if it might be helpful if I would organize these by type (animals, seasons, holidays, fruits and vegetables, etc.) The other teachers were thrilled and I was given a stack of bags to store the categories of stickers and label for future use. When I shared this experience with Tabitha, she totally connected with me. It was like light connecting to light.
I went on to tell her how I have been able to use this love for sorting in service to others. The example I gave her was when I helped a friend organize her stuff before moving. Not only was I helpful to her, I said, but it turned out to be a great way for my friend and I to get closer to one another.
Something has shifted in Tabitha that made this conversation so much more enjoyable and engaging than any I have had with her in the past. It makes faithfulness and patience as a grandparent seem so worthwhile. When grandchildren are at a distance, keeping contact with them can take a lot of one-sided energy. Our consciousness of them is not necessarily reciprocal. In fact, a phone call can seem like an interruption in their lives.
But then, one day, a child wakes up to this person who keeps reaching out to them. This is what happened when I talked to Tabitha yesterday. She had things to tell me. I didn’t have to ask questions. She was eager to share her experiences and ideas.
I had called Tabitha to wish her a belated “Happy Birthday”. I did not expect I was the one who would be receiving a gift.