Love and Hope in Troubling Times
“Let’s be present in the rain.”
It was the end of May: precisely that time of year where I’m reeling from the exhaustion of both teaching and parenting. There is so much that happens in May; it’s the busy culmination of the school year where the days get longer and evenings are peppered with band concerts, track meets, and late spring nights playing outside. All motivation to pack lunches is out the window, and a common question in our house is, “Would you like to buy lunch tomorrow?”
But this year, the end of May was marked by something far darker as news reports surfaced about a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Elementary school students and teachers were the target of yet another mass shooting at a school. As a mom and teacher, I felt this deeply.
Driving to work that day, I listened to news reports in tears. Parents sent their children to school on an ordinary day and within seconds lost everything. My heart was aching for these families, and the moments with my own children and students suddenly felt more precious and sacred.
On that same day, my six-year-old son’s school had a power outage. The school day had started, and many parents were already at work. Thankfully, the school had a plan. They would bus kids whose parents had to work to the middle school in the district, and we could pick them up when we were able.
When I arrived to pick him up, my son exclaimed, “Why did you come so early?” Even though he was one of the last kids in his class to get picked up, the teachers had found a way to make this day magical. As we drove home, he filled me in on the day, and I was able to connect the dots: there had been a bus ride to the middle school to hang out in the gym until the power was restored; a teacher packed up her “choice time” boxes and art supplies so the kids would have something to do; a delighted group of middle school secretaries enjoyed watching these little people enter their building. The stuff that core childhood memories are made of.
Since we had time before my older two kids arrived home, I offered for us to go on a walk to get ice cream. As the sky began to lightly drizzle, I grabbed our huge umbrella and took delight in the simple fact that we could even go get ice cream at 1:00, smack dab in the middle of both of our school days. There was something exciting about it—like we were playing hooky. As we walked, the rain went from light to steady. I told my son that we would keep walking and just “be present.”
He looked up and replied, “Let’s be present in the rain.”
We made it to Baskin Robbins, and there was a special sea turtle ice cream. Usually we are a single-scoop-per-kid kind of family. After all, there are five of us, and I was raised by a thrifty single mother.
But I thought about those babies in Texas, and when my son saw the sea turtle special, I said, “Yes.” We enjoyed our ice cream and he told me all about his day. Before walking back, he asked to pick a blue drink at the convenience store connected to Baskin Robbins. Yes, I thought to myself, why not?
We walked back home, the rain growing ever heavier, laughing at the puddles we didn’t avoid and letting our feet get wet. By this point, the umbrella was just a formality. It had lost all of its function.
The spring rain transformed the grass around us into a verdant green. It was so still that we saw a deer: a rarity to spot one so close near the busy front entrance of our neighborhood. We stopped. The deer stopped. We looked at each other before the deer darted back into the woods.
“See, if we didn’t keep walking when it first started raining, we never would have seen the deer. It’s a good day to be present—”
“—in the rain,” my son added.
Our feet were wet, and we held hands while my son held his little blue drink. The rain came down even heavier to a full-on downpour. We were laughing at the rain. Our umbrella was huge, but we were still really wet.
I thought again about those babies in Texas. How this simple walk with my youngest son was something they’d not have again with their parents. I held his hand tighter, savoring this sacred moment with him. I thought about the teachers at my son’s school, traveling with their classes to the middle school on the second to last day of school—and I wondered if they savored the moment, too?
Here in the rain, I simultaneously felt an ache and a peace beyond understanding. The world can feel like a horrible, broken place. And yet, as I felt this small, warm hand squeezing mine, I realized that God was there, too.
Looking back, I’ve grown from this small moment that is forever mapped into my heart. God is speaking to us within these core memories that our hearts return to again and again. I heard Brené Brown once describe this feeling of nearness to God as a “thin space” on a podcast where she and Bishop Michael Curry explored how to find “love and hope in troubling times.”1
Now I get it. My whole life growing up Catholic, I had heard the phrase “narrow gates” and internally shuddered because it was spoken with a tone of condemnation. To be honest, that line from the Gospels always scared me.2 But here, I heard for the first time how it was supposed to be understood: the “narrow gates” are that thin space where God is resting in the quiet—in the stillness—waiting for us to find him. Suddenly, I saw this phrase with a gentleness that I had never heard before.
As I thought more about our time in the rain, I was flooded with memories of playing “hide and seek” with my kids when they were really young. My husband and I would sometimes find incredibly obvious places for them to find us, and yet still, they’d run past us confused. Eventually, they’d find us when they slowed down and retraced their steps. Sometimes we would even make small noises that helped them move toward their reward: to find us and be wrapped in a big hug. The moment that they found us, they were bursting with joy, and so were we.
On this day, I was feeling that ache of motherhood that is part of the job description. I walked slowly, holding my son’s small, warm hand in mine, allowing myself a moment of gratitude in the rain with my ever-growing boy. But in the rain, I found a deep sense of understanding because I didn’t run. God found me in a place where he knew I would go.
1. Unlocking Us with Brené Brown: Brené with Bishop Michael Curry on Love & Hope in Troubling Times
2. See Luke 13:23-24 and Matthew 7:13-14
Lauren Nizol dreamed of being a writer when her oldest (now thirteen) of three sons was a baby. After her return to teaching a year later, it took some time before she began to write again. Aside from being a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend, Lauren is also a high school teacher and literacy interventionist, and an eighth grade catechist. For Lauren, writing always brings her clarity and presence. In the summers, she can be found outside with her family, preferably near water, blue skies and trees.
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