At church on Sundays, Evelyn empties out my purse like it is her job and she is trying to win Employee of the Month. (She is actually just a toddler, and we are not breaking any child labor laws.)
I take out my sunglasses and my phone and a square of chocolate, because those might not survive her love and attention, and then I let her have at it.
Eli watches over her shoulder and snatches up anything that might be useful for making noise.
Sunglasses case: yes. Bang it on the folding chairs to keep the beat.
Keys: jingling, okay yes.
For everything else he is the Put It Away Police, trying to stuff all the things back where they came from—which then gives Ev more to take out.
This is what we call “teamwork.”
It is also what we call “keeping them happy while the grownups sing and stuff.”
Because we like to sing, but it’s hard to do when little people are trying to run away out of the building. We have to assume they intend to play tag with the speeding traffic outside. Or maybe they’re just trying to remember which direction leads to the playground. Either way, it’s easier if they stay put and empty our personal belongings under everyone’s feet.
Last Sunday we sang a song that said: Here I am. Sometimes I’m not excited about songs with a lot of “I” in them, because I know me, and I’m not that great. I have good intentions, but I’m inconsistent and I miss things and I mess things up. Nothing to sing home about, you know.
But we sang and Evelyn kept at her work.
If the chair in front of us were a filing cabinet, it would be full of lip balm.
Here I am, and out came my wallet and notebook. Here I am, and she pulled out a matchbox car and another notebook.
Here I am. She found three seashells that looked like tiny unicorn horns. A black pen. A green pen. A purple pen. A different kind of black pen. 47 band-aids. Millions of tiny hair ties in rainbow colors. A turkey feather and another pen.
All the things I carry, spilled out over folding chairs and blue carpet. This is what I’ve got. This is what my days are made of. A turkey feather and a gross of pens.
You might think I would have more useful things in there, but no. This is everything.
It reminds me of the way a bird builds a nest. We watched a hummingbird in our yard last week, gathering twigs and sticks and bird fluff and molding them into something recognizable. It was very much a “let’s see what we we can do with what we have here” kind of situation.
What do we have here.
Hair ties to restore order in a very small way, for a very little while.
Matchbox cars to meet someone right where they are, in their car seat and their boredom.
Pens and journals to mark the moments.
Chocolate square because come on now chocolate doesn’t need a “because.”
I don’t know what the turkey feather is doing in there. Maybe somewhere a turkey is cold.
Here I am.
Not here I try hard, not here I keep score, not here I am doing my best to be bigger and better.
Here I am.
What if this is our offering? Here I am.
Here I am, child. Here I am, family. Here I am, friend. Here I am, God. Here I am, with my 47 band-aids and my turkey feather. Band-aids don’t even fix anything. They just make space for the healing.
Here I am.
Here I am, with my history, my issues, my ideas. Here I am, imperfect, a little worn out, with mismatched socks and unruly hair. Here I am.
Here is my perspective. Here is my personality. Here is my person. Here is my presence.
And maybe that’s all we have to do. Maybe that’s all we can do.
What else do I have, really? Does anybody want my hair ties?
Here you are: your own, only self. Here you are: the only one of you ever made.
Maybe here I am is the best and most beautiful thing we have to offer.
Here is Evelyn, all curiosity.
Here is Eli, making a joyful noise.
Here I am, full of questions.
Here you are, all of you.
At home, the hummingbird has finished building her little mud cup of a house outside our dining room window. She sits in her nest and we sit at the table, and we watch each other. Just sitting. Just watching. I don’t know what she thinks of us, but I think she is marvelous.