The big bad flu bug crept into our home last week and bit us all, one by one. Usually when the kids or Steve gets sick, for some reason, it bypasses me. I think it's a unique sort of strength that God builds into a mother's constitution, so that she can take care of everyone at any time. Well, despite all of my efforts to disinfect and contain the contaminants, I still got sick, and so did Steve, both of us at the same time.
My immediate thoughts went to our little Charles. I was overwhelmed with the worry that he, too, would get sick. Babies are so fragile, and I couldn't imagine my little angel suffering through the stomach pain, body aches and fever. The only way to protect him would be to ask Steve's parents to come and take him to their house. They so graciously came to our rescue.
The first night of being sick was a sleepless one for me. Every time I raced to help a child or to check on Steve, I channeled my worries into prayers for them all, and asked them to pray for Charlie, that he would be protected from such suffering.
Then, yesterday, the phone rang, and my heart sank. I knew that Granny's loving voice on the other end would speak the words I was dreading to hear. "He's sick, come quickly." None of my children had experienced the flu as infants. Colds and fevers, yes, but not the flu. The boys gathered around, all hunched over in their jammies and robes, pale faced and concerned. "Is Charlie sick, Mom? Will he be okay? What can we do, Mom? Is he scared, Mom?"
Knowing that there was no need to keep him away any longer, I rushed off to bring him back to the comfort of familiar surroundings. The older brothers waited patiently by the door, and the moment we came in they rushed around him, patting his head and his tummy, speaking softly and whispering words of encouragement. "Oh, Charles, I'm so sorry you are sick. You are going to be okay big guy. We are here, and we love you."
The nature of my boys is to unite through rough and tumble activities. They connect through teasing, wrestling and competing. Seeing their tenderness toward each other during the week melted this mamas heart!
Less than 24 hours later, Charles was miraculously feeling much better. I was beyond grateful, because I knew that it could have been much, much worse. Steve stayed home with Charlie, while I took the other four to Mass. That day happened to be St. Dominic's big school fundraiser, a spaghetti dinner with games and prizes for the kids. Our boys always have so much fun at this event, so it was a nice treat for them after experiencing such a pitiful week.
The games are set up so that the kids can earn tickets, and the tickets can be redeemed for prizes. None of us knew it, but George was secretly running from game to game trying to earn as many tickets as possible, so that he could bring home gifts for Charlie. And, gifts did he bring! Three sacks filled with stuffed animals!
The grin on George's face was precious! He was so delighted to surprise Charile with something that he thought would make his little brother feel better.
He didn't want to share just one or two, he had to surround Charlie with all of them, and play with each, one at a time, just to be sure that he could enjoy every animal.
There were lots of toys there to be purchased with tickets, but I think that because George cannot have any stuffed animals due to his allergies, he desired to give Charlie something that he himself cannot have. The thoughtfulness of his kind deed really touched me deeply.
When children act in virtuous ways, without our prompting or reminding, it can have a profound effect on others. For the past few weeks, the boys have been bickering and fighting more than usual, and I have to admit it's been frustrating for me. I tend to feel like a failure as a parent when my kids do not behave respectfully toward each other. I realize that children are going to argue, and lessons can be learned from working out differences, but we have days when it seems that no one can get along.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with the boys and asked them what it means to be a Christian. I asked them what would happen if a stranger came into our home and watched us for a day. Would he believe that we are Christians? Would he want to become a Christian? We have to LIVE what we believe, not just speak it.
I am saying these words to myself, because I know that the gospel is exemplified and received more deeply through actions than through words. I can read all the bible stories to them and exhaust every piece of literature on virtue humanly possible, but all of my efforts and good intentions would still only comprise a very small piece of the pie. The greater lessons are the ones that we teach through our actions. Those lessons will always be more indelible on their little souls that the lessons we preach.