I was running a little late for church this morning, and it wasn‘t a good time for that. I was filling in as our youth group leader and wanted to be there early. Also, it was my job to pick up the doughnuts.
Our little church is big into doughnuts. We get two dozen of them at a discounted price as long as we choose ones with holes. We’re OK with that, since we’re all supposed to be trying to become a little more hole-y anyway.
I was zipping down Route 4 north of Cincinnati, a six-lane highway that you can travel at 50 mph. I believe that’s the speed limit, anyway. As I went along in the left-hand lane, I noticed a little, round lump in the slow-speed lane.
Its little head poked out of the shell. Legs were flapping away, dragging it toward the traffic. No way was it going to make it across six lanes without getting smooshed.
I wanted to save the turtle. But that would mean turning around and being even later to get the doughnuts and get to church.
You know how you start rationalizing to avoid doing what you really need to do and really want to do? I can’t be late for church. It’s illegal to make a U-turn. It might be dangerous to stop for the turtle. Somebody else can save the turtle.
I kept telling myself all those things and feeling bad. The turtle needed help. It needed me.
At the next intersection, I made that illegal U-turn and went back. By the time I got there, someone else had pulled over and picked up the turtle and was carrying it to the safety of a grassy field.
Hooray for the turtle. And for the person who stopped to save it.
Wait, there’s more.
I picked up the two dozen doughnuts and got back on Route 4. A little ways farther, a mother duck and her babies were crossing the road.
They had already made it as far as the other side of the road, so I slowed but really couldn’t help them. Two cars on the other side stopped, and a young woman got out of one of them and herded the ducks the rest of the way across the road.
How can you not smile?
Somewhere, the turtle was eating grass and the mother duck and her ducklings were doing whatever mother ducks and their ducklings do. And none of them was smooshed. Chalk one up for life.
I no longer minded being a little late to church, where I discovered yet more good stuff was in store.
Four boys were in our youth group this day. Our project involved those find-the-hidden-picture drawings you see in Highlights magazine for children. You know: The ones where you have to locate the comb, the toothbrush, the muffin, the mitten and the carrot hidden in the line drawing.
The lesson was about how we often see things, but don’t necessarily recognize what’s there. We have to look hard to find things. Sometimes it helps to turn the picture sideways or upside-down so we can recognize what we’re seeking. It’s right there in front of our eyes.
The conversation turned to recognizing the people who could use our help, and seeing ways that we can help them. And we asked the question: Why do we help others anyway?
“Because they need help,” one 9-year-old boy said.
“And,” his 9-year-old brother added, “because it makes us feel good to help people.”
“And everybody needs help sometimes,” said another boy.
Wow. Yeah, and that, too.
We looked at the famous photo of Earth taken from Apollo 8. If you remember, it was the first time we got to see ourselves from the vantage point of another body in space.
The boys wondered why the photo was so grainy. I told them it’s from the 1960s. They seemed to think those were prehistoric times and started talking about pixels.
I told them that the grainy photo of Earth kind of fits what we do at church. We try to help each other find God in this picture. Sometimes when it seems that God is nowhere to be found, we just have to look a little closer and recognize the divine everywhere.
My morning had been all about finding. Finding the divine in a turtle saved, in a mother and ducklings protected, and in four young people showing they’re already so wise.
There it is, not hidden at all.