Last night, on the way home from a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, my elderly father reached into his pocket and pulled out a very small, stuffed panda bear. An old Christmas tree ornament based on the shredded loop of string at the top of it’s head. In the darkness of the car he handed the bear to me and said, “I found this at home and thought the kids might like it.” I immediately gave it to Olivia who, I knew, would care and play appropriately with it. We bid our fond goodbye’s to Grandpa and cruised on home with thoughts of our family and the fun we’d had throughout the day. It had certainly been a great day!
When we got home, in the light of our kitchen, Olivia had the opportunity to examine the gift Grandpa had given her. The panda bear, a mere 3″ tall, was patchy with yellowed fur. Some of the black had worn away too and his beaded eyes were gone. A beat up old thing… probably left over from my childhood many [many] years ago. Olivia looked at the bear with sadness and kissed it gently. She said, “Mommy, this bear is losing his fur. Maybe we can sew on some new threads to fill it in.” I looked at the bear, thinking to myself that most of us would have thrown this beat up old thing in the garbage, and told her I thought the bear’s fur was probably too far gone to fix. She took the bear back from me, kissed it again and, teary-eyed, asked where Grandpa had gotten the bear. I quietly told her, “Oh Olivia. This bear has probably been sitting under some old pile of newspapers in Grandpa’s basement, rotting for years and years since Mommy was a kid”. Big giant tears rolled down her face. Now, you might be thinking, as I was, though only briefly, that Olivia was not happy with the bear because it was old and decrepit. “Mommy” she whispered, “this bear has had no one to play with it all those years? He’s been all alone with no kid to love it?” She began to cry in earnest. My eyes filled with tears too and I told her, “Well, now he has you. That’s why Grandpa gave him to you. He knew you would take care of him and love him.” She half smiled — one of those sad but brave smiles — through her tears.
She went to the drawer and pulled out some Sharpie markers and asked me to color in the fur where the black and yellowed fur had worn away. She suggested that the next time we come across two small white pearls we could sew them on for his eyes. Then, she ran to the playroom and came back with a large, stuffed, mechanical panda bear, placed the little bear in the bigger bear’s arms and said, “Now he has a Mommy.” I suggested that perhaps the bears could have a special place near her bed since the little one had gone so long alone and she brought him and his new Mommy upstairs and placed them at the head of her bed where they spent the night.
This morning, those bears sat at the breakfast table as she ate. My little Angel had been heartsick with the thought that a toy (to her, a tiny baby) had gone any length of time without a friend and without a Mommy. She hadn’t cared that the bear was old and beat up at all. She only cared about him! The bear! She only cared about his feelings and his lonliness. I’m sure she’ll see to it that this little bear, which she named Saint Patch (short for Patrick and representative of his patchy fur), will never be alone again.
Sometimes the Angel Amongst Us is sitting right beside us unrecognized. Sometimes, all you have to do is listen to their words and appreciate the thought behind their actions.