“Lean on Me,
when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend.
I’ll help you carry on.
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.”
[Lean On Me by Bill Withers, 1972]
The spring-like breezes called out, beckoning us to enjoy a day of adventure in our local parks. Our plan was to discover the delights of lunch and playground at Burger King, followed by feeding the ducks at the pond and if all went well, our last stop would be yet another park with fantastic swings, slides, jungle gyms and all manner of child’s play.
The three of us had fallen into a comfortable rhythm of watching and responding to the golden-haired child. Actually, the three of us have accepted the roles that she naturally assigns to each of us. Grandpa carries her over rough terrain, lifts her to unreachable heights and teaches her about nature. He always has pennies in his pocket. Grandma dresses her and combs her hair, cooks ham and macaroni, watches Tom and Jerry with her and makes her take a nap. She always has candy and peanuts by her recliner. Deb plays blocks, works puzzles, reads books and keeps her distracted when Grandpa and Grandma need a rest and watches Dora with her. Deb also helps her put on make-believe earrings. Deb always has a tissue in her pocket or up her sleeve. So on this first outing all together, we were winging it.
We arrived at our second destination, the pond, to feed the ducks and geese with our partial loaf of bread. With great curiosity and serenity, the golden-haired child watched while standing safely on the picnic table within the arms of Grandpa. The bits of bread were tossed and the ducks and geese began to migrate and surround us. The golden-haired child snuggled closer to her Grandpa.
Soon, the bread was gone. The web-footed residents paddled and waddled away. Grandma settled down on the seat of the picnic table resting her back against the table. The child released her grip on Grandpa. She moved to the table center. She watched, she turned and she asked questions, all the while never being still. My hip was leaning against the end of the picnic table. Grandpa saw the child standing somewhat close to me; he encouraged her to squat down beside me so that he could take a picture of us. She did move over to me and did squat down but immediately jumped away and ran to her Grandma with an emphatic, “No!” After a minute or two of cajoling and teasing, she returned to my side so that Grandpa could snap the above picture.
She then decided to come down from her high perch on the table to settle beside Grandma on the seat. Soon, with new courage found she walk closer to the pond, but wisely clinging to Grandma’s hand. Unbeknownst to them, I snapped their picture, shown below.
Clinging to Grandma’s hand was natural to her as was moving closer when the web-footed friends got too friendly. Grandma murmured words of assurance that the honking geese would not cause her harm. As we were walking back to the car I heard her pleading with Grandma to carry her when it appeared that the geese would follow. Again, Grandma murmured words of comfort and assurance, continued to hold her hand but together they kept walking. I heard her responding with a high-pitched voice, “But I’m little!”
She instinctively clung to her Grandma, a person of security. When her Grandma carried on without picking her up but yet continued to walk with her, holding her hand and speaking to her in a calm voice, she trusted Grandma. She wasn’t happy about it in the moment, but she trusted and obeyed. We arrived safely at the car and with due diligence, we carried on to the next stop on our day’s adventure.
On this day, I was reminded through the eyes of a child what it was like to be fearful and yet still trust. Through the eyes of a child I saw what it was like to be fearful and yet not able to trust. When she first came over to me by the table’s end, she immediately pulled away and ran to Grandma. She had clung to Grandma. Did she not have the same sense of security with only me for support by the table’s end? I am not of the same height or strength as her grandparents. Could it be that this toddler knew on whom to lean and to whom to run when there were threats close by? She is a young one with a wise heart, indeed.
“You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
[Psalm 91:1-2, The Message]