Every now and then, I hear an off-the-cuff statement that sends my mind a-spinning for days. These comments often spring up from some deep well of wisdom tucked inside the heart of a child. I heard one of those priceless nuggets at Granny’s House just a few weeks ago at day’s end as I finished picking up the outdoor toys. Just before locking up and heading for my car, I yelled to one of our 10-year-old boys: “Hey, Eric! Let’s put those balls away because Granny’s House is closing!” Without a moment’s hesitation, he yelled back: “No! Granny’s House is heaven, and heaven never closes!”
“What?” I thought. “Granny’s House, heaven?” Didn’t he notice that massive disorganized pile on my desk? And what about the puddle of crumbs in the corner that last night’s floor sweeper somehow missed? Or the fact that my to-do list never seems to shorten?”
This 10-year-old boy’s radar failed to track any of that. For him, help with homework after school, having someone listen to the details of his day and learning from mentors just how precious he is, especially to God, is heaven. Having spent his first years of life halfway across the globe in a refugee camp, little Eric’s mind was tuned in to what I like to call “the main things” — those things that a thousand years from now will still matter. For him, Granny’s House was the closest thing to heaven he had ever experienced.
Like most Americans, I love the big, the fancy and the impressive, and when my efforts fall short, as they so often do, I begin to wonder if I am succeeding. I’ve come to realize that creating those little pockets of joy in the heart of a child, a stranger, a wounded soul doesn’t cost a dime. An ear bent low to listen, a soft answer to an angry barb, praise for a job well done — or even a job well-attempted — goes a long way in mending the broken places we encounter all around us. For this 10-year-old refugee kid, time, attention and kindness all translate as heaven.
In the hubbub that always seems to accompany my American life, it’s easy to miss opportunities to impart little glimpses of goodness to someone else. I have to remind myself that I don’t need a million-dollar grant to impart hope to a straggler who finds himself alone and stranded on the curb of life.
In this column in the coming months, I look forward to shining a spotlight on some pretty special people whose lives are all about “the main things” — people in the business of creating pockets of joy for others. Because of them, heaven never closes in Columbia, Mo.!
Pam Ingram is the founder and director of Granny’s House, a place where Columbia kids see “God’s love and tender mercies” in action.