My small rural parish does not offer a daily Mass, so on days when I want to worship in the middle of the week, I will take my children to the the next closest parish, St. Peter’s. This church has to be at least a hundred year old, probably built during a time when the parishioners themselves still built their own buildings, every space inside given deep significance, and every brick laid with love and prayer.
Just to the side of the main altar is a little shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes complete with a miniature fountain commemorating the miraculous spring which bubbled up in the original location and whose waters have healed countless sick pilgrims. The bottom of the fountain is lined with these translucent blue “pebbles” which are actually made of glass, similar to marbles, only flattened.
My three-year-old loves this shrine, especially the blue pebbles in the fountain. The last time we attended Mass there, little K picked up one of the pebbles intending to take it home with her.
She must have known I wouldn’t approve because she initially hid it in her sleeve. Then she decided to show it to me. ”Mama, it’s just one,” she told me.
I was briefly tempted to just let her take it home, for the simple reason that K is still working on the part where you don’t scream and throw a fit just because you don’t get your way. People were still in the church quietly praying after the Mass had concluded, and the last thing I wanted to do was disturb their prayers with a tantrum.
“You know you’re going to have to put it back,” I said gently.
“Because it doesn’t belong to you,” I replied. ”It belongs to the church.”
“But I really want it,” she protested.
“I know, but the right thing is to put it back.”
I could tell this was one of the most difficult things she’d been asked to do. But she did it, without so much as a scream and while holding back a tear.
“I’m so proud of you,” I told her after she’d returned the pebble. ”You did the right thing, what Jesus would want you to do.” That didn’t seem to make much difference to her. She was sad to not be taking the pebble home.
A few days later, Erik and I found ourselves inside Hobby Lobby for our annual Christmas shopping date. He’d already bought the children some marbles at Wal-Mart, but I wondered if there were prettier ones at Hobby Lobby. When we asked if they had marbles the store clerk directed us to the floral section.
That’s when I found the jackpot–an entire package of the exact same glass pebbles that had so captivated Little K. I told Erik what had happened after Mass. For $2.99 plus tax, Little K could have all the shiny blue pebbles her heart could want–the reward of the righteous when you’re only three.
We make a point to celebrate the entire Christmas season, and part of this means we spread out the gift giving. Just yesterday we gave K the package of pebbles. Erik made a trail of them leading to another small gift. She was absolutely delighted. ”I have lots of pretty blue stones!” she exclaimed.
I reminded her of the day she did the right thing and returned the one pebble she wanted to take home even though it was very difficult.
I hope she remembers this lesson–that we must always choose the right thing, righteousness, even when it is difficult, costly or painful. And sometimes God will reward our faithfulness with abundance beyond what we can imagine.