Monday night Isaiah asked me, as he frequently does, if we could put together one of the robot kits he got for his birthday.
He got four robots and we've (more precisely I've with his "assistance") put together two of them so far. Part of the reason we've only done two of them since his birthday in March is that these kits are surprisingly complex and highly articulated and they take most of an evening to go slowly and do a good job as I like to do. Another reason is that once they're assembled, well, they're assembled and I get as much fun out of putting them together as Isaiah does playing with'em so I'm stretching them out to make them last.
Anyway, last night Isaiah asked me if we could put one together.
"No, Son. It's too late to start it tonight and I'm too tired. Maybe another night."
"How about tomorrow night?" he asked as he always does.
"We're busy tomorrow night, remember? I've got the devo at the nursing home tomorrow night and then we're going out to Aunt Mary's house."
(Let me note here for those who may be confused- No, we aren't going to a performance of an early 80's new-wave band at the old folk's home. The term 'devo' is common parlance among church going people for devotional. Once a month a group from our congregation goes to one of a number of local nursing homes to spend some time with the residents. Typically we sing some songs, have a prayer, and end with a devo and some more songs. The preacher and I alternate months doing the devo at these things. Tuesday was my turn.)
"Oh, yeah, now I remember. I want to help with the devo, can I?"
"Why, sure you can!" I replied delightedly.
I hadn't yet decided on a topic, but coming up with something that he could help with simplified matters somewhat in that it would revolve around a relatively simple Bible story he was familiar with. I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion that the story of Jonah would be a good choice. He knows it pretty well, and I could get a couple of good illustrations out of it.
Later on after supper, we turned off the TV and he climbed up in my lap and we talked about Jonah.
"What did God tell Jonah?" I asked.
"To go to Nineveh!"
"To tell them to stop being bad and start being good."
As I prompted him with my questions, he told the whole story. Well, the whole thing minus Jonah's bitterness at the end, but I didn't plan on making that part of the devo anyway. He was excited about helping me and we talked about how we'd work together to make the old people smile.
I'm usually the youngest member of our congregation to show up for our nursing home visits, but tonight not only were Ruth and Isaiah with me, but we were surprised to see a family who not only have a one year old, but a boy a few months older than Isaiah had decided that since they live in the neighborhood they'd have an evening's walk and join us.
It's always good to have more people show up, but their son is, shall we say, not as skilled at settling down and exhibiting the sort of behavior desired in the kind of environment we were going to be in as Isaiah generally is. I knew Isaiah would be very good despite the distraction and less than perfect example set by the other young fellow, but I wasn't sure he'd be quite as good as he might have if there weren't other kids there.
As we stood outside waiting for the rest of our folks to show up, Isaiah and his buddy entertained themselves by watching the fountain by the front door. It's the kind made to look like an old-fashioned pump that fills a bucket till it dumps the water into the pool below. I think the two of them could have stood there giggling and watching the bucket fill up and dump over and over again all evening, but soon it was time for us to go in and see the old folks.
We are regulars here and I recognized most of the faces of the people seated in the activity room. The level of 'with it-ness' of the audience here runs the gamut, but most of them are pretty alert and many of them recognize and know us.
I've been part of our nursing home visitation group for several years now, but the special feeling I get from doing it has never diminished. There's something tremendously heart-warming about spending some time with these folks who never get to go anywhere. It always seems like a chore when I'm reminded that I've got a devo at a nursing home coming up soon, but it's always mere moments after arriving that I'm overwhelmed by the feeling that it's not a chore but a great privilege to be able to be a part of these peoples lives in this way.
Tonight I experienced this feeling just like always, but the pleasure I get from bringing happiness to these folks took a back seat to my pride and delight in my son who not only asked of his own volition to help me with the devo, but also on his own began going right up to the residents shaking hands and saying "Hi, my name's Isaiah!"
We began our time with them with a few hymns. Isaiah was pretty good while we were singing. He was a little fidgety, but he was quiet and stood right by his mother and I. Eventually the fidgety-ness increased and he whispered to me that "his feet were getting tired" so I let him sit in a nearby chair with an admonition to sit still. He didn't do a stellar job of sitting still, but he was quiet so I let him be.
Soon it was our turn to present the devo and I took Isaiah's hand.
"Are you ready to make the old folks smile," I asked in a whisper.
"I sure am!" he answered.
He did a marvelous job, of course. He's got a great sense of timing and inflection. He even ad-libbed a little bit. When I asked him what Jonah prayed for after the fish swallowed him I thought he might have a future as a comedian judging by the laughter he got from his response of "to get out of that fish!". After we'd told the story together, I made a couple of points which I illustrated with the events Isaiah and I had described and then we closed with a few more hymns.
When we were done he made me proudest of all by going to every single resident in the room with a very big smile and a hug or handshake. He's a very sweet and outgoing little fellow. Not only was he not in a hurry to get going, but he didn't mention robots or spaceships once. He devoted his full attention to simply greeting the old folks. His only thought was sharing smiles with folks who don't get too many extra smiles.
I know I'm not a perfect father. I'm frequently impatient and selfish with my time, but as I watched my son set such a fine example of spreading God's love to others I figured I must be doing a pretty decent job so far.