Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What a friend she has in Jeebus

I'm not the type of person who's particularly charmed by "cute kid stories." I really don't need to know about the intimate details of my friends' children's potty-training struggles and mealtime antics. When a co-worker who just had a baby comes back to visit during maternity leave, I'm never one of the women fighting for "my turn to hold the baby."

That being said, this story from my friend Jenny (much like the Easter bunny question my friend Melinda was faced with a while back) cracked me up. I do hope it's not just the element of sacrilege I found amusing, though I can't say that wasn't at least a minor factor.

Jenny is what I consider a fairly typical Catholic. Although her husband doesn't go to church, she still goes on her own or with their daughters nearly every week. She avoids meat on Fridays during Lent as long as she remembers to do so, and she had both of her children baptized shortly after their births. She may be one of those "just going through the motions out of habit" sort of Catholics (a characteristic that seems to describe most Catholics--I grew up Catholic; I can say that), but I still assumed she'd begun familiarizing her young daughters (ages two and four) with all the usual stories about Jesus and God and Heaven and Mary and Moses and Noah and so forth.

Apparently not.

Jenny runs a day care business out of her home, and since the children she cares for spend nearly every moment of their days together, they constantly pick up habits and phrases from each other, and what's going on in one child's life quickly becomes the focus of all the other children's lives. Recently, one of Jenny's day care kids started Sunday school, so naturally this new experience and new knowledge is suddenly all little Alicia can talk about. Apparently it's "Jesus this" and "Jesus that" as she prattles on the way young children do.

Despite her regular attendance at Catholic mass, Jenny's four-year-old daughter Meghan was obviously unfamiliar with this Jesus person of whom Alicia spoke, and one day she piped up to voice her confusion. "Who is this Jesus you keep talking about, Alicia?" she asked. "Is he a friend of yours?"

Despite all of her new-found knowledge about Jesus and what a great guy he was and everything, it seems Alicia hadn't quite wrapped her head around it in such a way as to be able to explain the whole concept of "Son of Man" to a fellow four-year-old. She looked at Meghan, confused, and replied, "Um, he lives in Heaven..."

Meghan, still not making sense of it nor recognizing this as anything she'd heard about before, responded, "Where is that? Is it close by?"

This much, Alicia knew how to answer. Her parents have never strapped her into her car seat in their minivan to take her on a day trip to Heaven, and Jesus has never just stopped by their house to say Hi, so she was pretty confident in telling Meghan that no, in fact, it is not close.

"Is it further away than my grandma's house?" Meghan asked.

It was then that Jenny realized she'd perhaps been lapse in her most basic duties as a Catholic mother. She signed Meghan up for Bible School the very next weekend. Upon learning that she'd get a discount if she participated as a parental volunteer, she signed herself up as well. It's probably best for all involved that she didn't get herself roped into any actual teaching responsibilities. I'm sure the Snack Center will do just fine under her watch, however.

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