Joseph and the Swing
In an effort to run off some energy Saturday, we headed out to the park. It was one of those nights where everyone seemed to be on a short fuse. More than our usual share of disagreements and complaining. So, the answer was simple - set them loose in the woods! Ha!
In reality we did a little hike and then decided to hit the playground. It was getting on in the evening so thankfully, there were not many other people there. The Hilgeforts can take over a playground quickly - and we did. After a lively game of tag, they headed for the swings. This is where it all begins to unravel.
Joseph made the crucial mistake of allowing himself to be buckled into a swing that is designed for a child with special needs. He actually asked Gianna to help him get in. Mistake #2, he asked Gianna to push him. This all went well until Joseph decided he was being pushed too high. Gianna was not responding to his request to stop, so the shriek coming out of his mouth increased in pitch and his face turned beet red. At this point, Peter, James, and John smell blood in the water. They quickly form a line and begin hurling the playground tire mulch at the trapped, screaming Joseph. It is really soft, but when Joseph took one to the forehead, the injustice was too much. It was time to intervene - and I did. Gianna stopped the swing, the little brothers dropped their mulch, and Joseph was freed.
I know this sounds long, but this all happened in the span of a couple minutes. As it was unfolding, there were two other girls on the swings watching wide mouth, unable to avert their eyes from the chaos. It was definitely time to the leave the park. There are times when being such a large family, and having such a distinct van, put you at a disadvantage. There is no way to sneak off quietly and hope no one remembers you. For better or worse, we leave a mark. I don’t think Joseph will ask to be buckled into one of those swings anytime soon!
Too many have this image of the Hilgeforts as the family in the front pew of church where everyone behaves so well. Let me tell you, the Hilgeforts are working it out like any other family, and it is not easy! We make more than our fair share of noise! We fight, we are impatient, and yes - on rare occasion - the little ones do bite! (True confessions!)
It can become easy to look at someone that seems to have it all together and think, “I can never have that, I am just not made that way.” And simply give up since it seems unattainable. The more you get to know someone though, we realize we all have our crosses and struggles. Not one of us has it all figured out. Really what differentiates one person from another is who is willing to continue to strive to be holier today than they were yesterday?
St. Therese described herself as feeling she was a grain of sand on the sea shore, looking to a mountain in the distance whose top was in the clouds. How could she, a grain of sand, ever make it to that mountain top? The answer, Christ would take her there. It was the only way.
We must know our littleness and accept it. We must fight the temptation to compare ourselves to others. We may think someone has it all together, when in reality they are falling apart. We may think someone is a mess, when in reality they are making huge strides to increase in holiness. Looking at others will never help me grow in my faith. Only by looking at myself can I make any progress.
Of course, the only way to make that progress is to turn our heart over to God, to trust in Him, and partake frequently of the spiritual gifts of the sacraments. We are God’s adopted children. No parent expects their child to make it the mountain top from the shore on their own. They do expect their child to trust them and be obedient. Sometimes the journey will be difficult, but a child never doubts that their parent loves them and will take care of them. Yes, the heart of a child is a beautiful thing.
Not everything is as it seems. Let me shatter any illusions you have of the Hilgeforts having it all together. Let me shatter any illusions you have that I have it all together. Striving for holiness is for all of us. Don’t be tempted to thinking you can’t make it to that mountaintop. That is the devil’s first trick - tempting you to despair. As a child knows that their parents will get them to their destination, we must trust in the God to take us to ours.
If you ever see the Hilgefort van pulling up to a playground you are at - run! JMJ