A couple of hours into our hike at Emmenegger Nature Park, I figured the Little Guy had probably had a bellyful of adventure – more than enough for one morning.
I was wrong.
As we made our toddlin’ way back to the parking lot, Grandson #2 spied something positively fascinating on the asphalt path: a fuzzy caterpillar. Already himself pretty low-to-the-ground, he couldn’t resist squatting down for a closer look.
No surprise there, I suppose. Bugs and creeping critters tend to exert a special hold on two-year-olds. But what truly intrigued this ol’ Gramps was the way the Little Guy treated his new-found forest friend. A gentle stroke elicited a giggle as he felt the critter’s whiskers. And then he extended an open palm, inviting the caterpillar to climb aboard for just a bit.
The caterpillar demurred, perhaps a tad terrified by its encounter with a well-meaning Boy Giant. And that was perfectly okay with the Little Guy. He ended the encounter…and I thought was about to send the caterpillar on its way.
But not so fast, Gramps: Grandson had one more surprise in store. Making a beeline to the other edge of the path, he picked a leaf from a low-riding weed…and then returned to offer this piece of tender-green vegetation to the caterpillar as a late-morning snack.
So now it was my turn to be fascinated: Where had the Little Guy learned to be this compassionate and generous toward a creature so much lower on the food chain?
I knew the answer, of course. He’d learned the lessons well from his Momma and his Poppa. And my heart swelled with gratitude over this wonderful moment in the woods, because it spoke volumes about the loving home that surrounds the Little Guy and his Big Brother.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us (in the first reading we hear on Sunday) that this is evidence of God’s presence in the world. When a parent’s love showers down on the Little Ones, it bears fruit.
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down
and do not return there till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
Hard work, to be sure, taking good care of the Little Ones. Their demands can be relentless, the challenges daunting. But the work does not return to the heavens void.
To the contrary: It produces a delightful daily harvest…one that helps to bless our world with wonder.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
I am always amazed how children befriend critters. my 7 year old granddaughter discovered a wild rabbit and promptly supplied it with greens and carrots in her plastic play dishes. She enjoyed looking for “Peter” for a few days till he moved on. Then she was on to her next adventure reinforcing in me the joys of nature and simple things.