Just a few hours at the park, that was my impromptu idea. The Arizona heat broke to a balmy 71 degrees and I couldn’t resist the urge to get the kids outside for long stretches of pathways to explore on their twin scooters. I grabbed two water bottles, some raisins (and scooters, obviously) and we were out the door.
After two hours of racing, swerving and gliding in the sunlight, I knew it was about time to leave. Other sure signs – empty water bottles, squashed raisin boxes and the last pages of my book read. Also it was time for lunch, which I had prepped at home and waiting for our return.
But as I gathered my things, Emma started yelling like a siren ‘Tahany’s here, the boys are here!’ She dropped her scooter and bolted to Tahany’s side like greeting a long-lost sister. Soon it was the boys hugging me, Justin hugging them, the baby kissed and cuddled and the crescendo of two mama’s getting their turn to embrace.
One thing was clear – we were staying.
As the time passed and the kids played from one side of the park to the other, it was time for lunch. Tahany came prepared, sandwiches for herself and her kids. I thought of my prepared lunch on the counter at home, and how hungry my kids would be from all that outdoor play. I imagined their hunger would be compounded by sadness when they saw their friends eating. Maybe I’d just let them keep scootering around and hope they’d never notice…
The boys and their cousins joined us under the shady tree for their turkey and cheese sandwiches. They gobbled and grunted. My kids wandered over, peering at the food. Tahany motioned them over, told them to sit. ‘Are you hungry?’
I watched her take her own sandwich from her lap. She took, broke and gave the bread to them. In her unflinching generosity, she blessed the bread. It was a Eucharistic moment, a holy sacrament under the trees.
Over dinner that night, I asked the kids about their best part of the day. In unison they chirped “Seeing Tahany and the boys at the park today!” They loved the playing, the reunion with the boys and were particularly smitten with the now-crawling baby boy we watched grown in Tahany’s tummy last year.
“Was that your favorite part, too?” Justin asked. “My favorite part was when Tahany showed us Jesus – the way she shared her own lunch with you so that you could eat.” Justin did a double take, “Wait, that was her lunch? She gave us her own sandwich?”
The rest of dinner we talked about how Tahany looked like Jesus, sitting on the blankets and giving her food so freely. She made sure there was enough for everyone to eat something. No one went hungry, because we were all together and willing to share.
What I didn’t tell the kids, but is also true, is how her giving broke my own sense of scarcity in that moment. I brought no lunch, all my snacks were exhausted, and I had nothing to feed my kids. Her generosity overcame my lack, making enough for them to eat and enough room for me to be at peace.
Even in the park we can be Jesus to one another. Even turkey sandwiches can be bread, turning a picnic into a holy happening when given with selfless generosity. And even our impromptu trip to the park can give way to the celebration of the Eucharist.