As I digested this news, it occurred to me that Dad expected me to be sad, and I squeezed out a few tears. Behind those tears, however, was an incandescently happy little girl.
It’s hard to be sad when you’re told that you are going to live with two of the nicest people you’ve ever known in your entire life, two people whom you have wrapped around your little finger, two people who cherish you so absolutely that you feel like you can say or do anything—even push your sister down the stairs—and they will still love you.
Yep, that’s just a tragic situation for a seven-year-old, don’t you think?
When we were settled in Grandma and Papa’s small three-bedroom ranch with a big back yard, I basked in the daily glow of the love of three fabulous adults. Life was good.
What makes life good for a child? It’s not money and prestige and fancy cars and their parents’ high-powered careers. It’s not luxury vacations, first-class seating, or fine dining. Life is good for children when they are loved and have someone to love in return. Life is good when they can take pleasure in little things, like a grandmother who makes play-dough for them and a grandfather who hands them a ball-point pen and lets them doodle all over his grease-stained work shirt because, after all, the shirt is going to the cleaners anyway.
Every night, after Lisa and I were tucked into bed by Mom and Grandma, Papa would walk into the dark room, cigarette glowing in his hand. He sat at the foot of one of our twin beds. He talked with us. I don’t remember a single word of our conversations, the subject matter, or whether he shared words of wisdom with us. Maybe he told jokes or asked questions about our day or told us stories. What he said was not really important. He was there. Every night.
I remember feeling safe, feeling that there was a strong, smart, sweet man who was there for me, dependable and true. I remember falling asleep with a whiff of cigarette smoke and Canadian Mist and Old Spice. I remember feeling loved.
When I had children of my own, I wanted to continue this bedtime tradition, which we christened Snuggle-Bunnies. Both our boys sleep in one queen-size bed, and George and I take turns every night lying on each side of the bed, talking, rubbing backs, tickling knees, and having conversations with stuffed animals. At the end of my time with each boy, I place my hand on his head and say, “The Lord bless you and keep you. Amen.”
Recently, I stumbled on a quotation that struck home with me. Keith J. Thomas said, "Unless we can do little things well we can never do big things. We must ennoble our little duties, and we shall find they grow into big achievements. Little acts of thoughtfulness, little kindnesses, little tendernesses, little charities make up the sum total of a large, generous and lovable mind."
My grandfather had a large, generous, and lovable mind, and he showed me the secret to love. It’s not the grand gesture, the huge vacation, the biggest present under the tree. Love is the little daily gift of time and attention, the dependability and thoughtfulness shown in little gestures, the reflection of God in the small things we do for those who need us.
Snuggle-Bunnies and little blessings make a big difference in children’s lives. After all, what is bigger than to teach someone how to love?
I invite you to share in the comments your version of Snuggle-Bunnies: whatever little thing that lets you know you are loved by someone or that lets others know you love them.