It was a brief cameo, one of those events for which you just happen to be present, an unnoticed, casual spectator, but because God happens to speak to us through the people and events of our lives, I was involved, deeply, even as I walked at a distance, along the footpath outside the Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre.
He would have been four years of age. He came barrelling out the side door near the kiddies’ paddling pool, laughing and shrieking at the top of his voice: “You can’t catch me, you can’t me! Mummy can’t catch me!” And Mummy couldn’t catch him. She came out the same door, toddler in tow, smiling and laughing, pretending to run and calling out: “I’m coming! I’m getting closer.”
And then disaster! Looking back over his shoulder as he was, he missed the curb, turning frantically as his foot tripped, and he face-planted into the decorative Council garden. The shrieks of delight changed to shrieks of fright, as he picked himself up, covered in dirt, sobbing more in shock than hurt. And next thing Mummy had her arms right around him, holding him close, soothing the sadness, brushing off the dirt, kissing the top of his head. And he relaxed into her arms, comforted, nurtured, safe.
Maybe a minute later, for no real reason, I glanced back. Here he was, tears dried, hurts comforted, now struggling to push out of the encircling arms of his Mother, wanting to break free, needing to run, to discover more.
I muse often on Marist education. Was that an image? The arms around, holding in close, soothing the sadness, brushing off the dirt, loving, comforting, nurturing, keeping safe --- getting them ready for when they need to push out, to escape the encircling arms, to break free, to run, to discover what we can’t tell them?