Recently, I took our two older children to the mall to man a kettle on behalf of The Salvation Army. You’ve seen these red buckets and heard the “dingy” bell as my son calls it. It’s a staple of Christmas time and it’s a good opportunity to help out others with nothing more than the change in your pockets.
I planned for our two-hour time slot, which was in the early evening hours. We were going to be outside the food court area, under a shelter but exposed to the evening air. The weather that evening was chilly (not cold, though) and rainy. So, I packed a folded picnic blanket for the kids to sit on if they needed to rest and a fluffy blanket to wrap up in if they became cold. Like I said, it was chilly and not cold, but standing outside for two hours can make anyone feel cold after a bit. I also got the kids some dinner and took them to the restroom and made sure we all tinkled before starting our shift.
We arrived at our kettle, donned our volunteer aprons and acquired our bells from the previous workers. We ran through the rules one final time:
- No asking people for money
- No touching the kettle (this was extremely hard!)
- Say ‘Thank you!”
- Say “Merry Christmas!”
- Have a great time!
So we began our shift. The kids did great…they dinged their bells to carolers favorites such as ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells’. They were little “Johnny One Notes” with their bells but soon enough their work began paying off. And because there were two children, many folks took extra care to honor both children with two “monies” as the kids call them instead of one. So instead of one dollar, they put in two dollars and most thanked the children for their work.
They were beaming! And the boy child was a little fidgety. A little too fidgety.
He calls me to him so he could whisper to me “Mommy, I have to go potty!” This is ten minutes into our two-hour shift.
Oh no!!!! I am alone with my two small children and we are guarding a bright red kettle full of money at a packed mall!
“Hold it!” I tell him, knowing there’s no way he can hold it for two hours. I pray someone I know happens to cross our path so they can take him to the bathroom for me. I text official people to see what to do in this situation…but no response.
He gets worse and worse to the point where he’s actually holding himself and ringing his bell.
I look at my girl child, who sees the seriousness in my eyes and instantly steps up to the occasion. I can count on her, she’s so responsible. I keep telling myself that…
“Girl child, take boy child to the potty. You remember where it is? Go past the carousel and turn right, then go down the hallway.” She’s intently looking at me, nodding at my instructions.
“DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE! DO NOT LET ANYONE TOUCH YOU! WATCH OUT FOR BOY CHILD! GO RIGHT THERE AND COME RIGHT BACK!”
“OK, Mommy! I promise.” She tells me. She takes boy child’s hand and tells him “Boy child, come with me…hold my hand and follow my instructions!” Even boy child knew the seriousness of this mission and he, against his usual tendency, followed girl child’s lead.
And just like that, they walk into the mall…without me.
And just like that, I felt like the worst mother in the entire world. And I felt like I just made the worst decision ever. I was no longer focused on the kettle or the bell ringing because I sent my entire world into a busy mall food court alone.
I instantly started praying, “Lord please keep them safe. Keep your warrior angels all around them. Guide them to the bathroom and guide them back to me. Watch over them. Keep them safe. Oh God, keep them safe.”
An eternity passed as I kind of thanked folks for donating to the kettle and sort of wished people a Merry Christmas while watching the path my children took intently…waiting for their polka dot and camouflage coats to appear. This was taking too long…
I decided I would abandon the kettle and go after my children when suddenly, the boy child came skipping through the door right to me and my girl child followed him, beaming at how successfully responsible she had been. I was so relieved to see them and I hugged them both as they told me how brave they were while they were on their adventure together!
Whew. (I do not need a lecture, by the way…)
Back to bell ringing and kettle donation collecting.
Girl child tugs at my coat a bit and motions me with her little finger to her for a secret. Then she tells me that she prayed to God for Him to put the strongest bubble around her and boy child as they went to the bathroom together. She asked for that bubble to be the strongest bubble that no one could break through…not the sharpest knife or anything. And she said that bubble kept them safe because God put it all around them.
I believed in the power of my prayer but let me tell you how confident I was in her prayer. Her prayer was the one that went straight to God and her prayer is what kept her and boy child safe. I clung to her answered prayer and thanked God for hearing her.
I will still continue to pray for my children but I am so encouraged by prayers initiated by my children and how they call out for their Heavenly Father when they need to. They know He is listening to them and their faith in Him is astounding. I need their faith…the faith of an innocent child.