Once upon a time, I was a stay-at-home mom to three children under the age of four. I adored my babies, found my toddlers fascinating, really loved engaging with my elementary students, and somehow survived my teenagers.
But those preschool years? They just about did me in.
We belonged to a co-op preschool, and once a month, I was required to assist the teacher in the classroom and on the play yard. I did it gladly—it saved tuition dollars in a season when dollars were tight. But wow, was I ever tired at the end of those mornings! I mean drop-down-on-the-couch-the-minute-we-entered-the-house-and-not-accomplish-one-other-thing-that-day tired.
My husband, on the other hand, would come bounding home after a full day of work, change to “play” clothes, and happily roll around on the floor, take walks, push kids on swings, or do whatever else their little hearts desired. I was awestruck.
Partly that was because I had already lived through ten straight hours of corralling busy children. Their dad sat at a desk, held meetings, or talked on the telephone for those hours. At the end of each business day, he welcomed the chaos and nonstop motion of his children.
But there was this other truth too: my husband has a gift. He has the ability to welcome little ones, without effort or fatigue. He is a pied piper with young kids and enjoys their company. That particular gift has borne beautiful fruit in our retirement years. Every week for the past three years, he’s traveled across our small village to the local YMCA to assist the teachers at the excellent preschool there. He teaches simple math lessons, builds Lego creations, pushes swings, sets up cots for naps, helps students figure out their lunch boxes. Every week, he checks the lesson plan and finds objects or photographs for the topic of the day. Yesterday, it was gibbons. The day before it was tree frogs.
And these little ones adore him.
One boy comes from a deeply troubled home. My husband (whom they call Poppy) is the one who can reach through his moods and aggressive behavior and touch that little heart with loving care. A different classmate is blessed with a large and loving family, but sometimes he gets overlooked at the lunch-packing part of the day. Poppy makes sure he has enough to satisfy his good appetite. Poppy can soothe hurt feelings, make a crying child laugh, tell stories, find missing toys, sing along with the songs, even fill in for a missing shepherd in the Christmas pageant.
In this place, with these twelve young students, Poppy radiates mercy. And he teaches those kids just a little bit more about justice and compassion too.
For nearly forty years, my husband put on a suit and tie and went to work in an office, helping individuals and small businesses with their investments. He was good at that too. Always he tried to honor his clients and the business he loved by carefully suggesting investments in corporations whose practices were humane and beneficial. He always told the truth and actively sought out charitable organizations to work with.
Now he helps several widows in our extended family manage their invested retirement income, freeing them from the burden of financial worry. In his own quiet and steady way, my husband lives out the biblical mandate to offer compassion, mercy, and justice in every corner of his life. What he does isn’t splashy, won’t generate headlines, and probably won’t earn him public acclaim. But the goodness of the Lord just bubbles up, you know? Dick makes me want to be a better person, a closer follower after Jesus, someone who is on the lookout for the little ones among us, no matter what their age.