You don’t notice her crying at the top of the swirly slide, how she’s blissfully bounded the steps and gotten herself stuck at the top…like you did once. Now there’s no way out of this except down– zooming over slippery metal or clambering backward on the steep ladder. Others swarm around her, passing her by, leaving her stranded. Tears are coming out her nose by now. I try to talk her down the fun way, to tell her in toddlerese that she’ll do fine. 1,2,3…go. I wait at the end of a slide. It’s a no go. Somebody else’s kid barrels down laughing. I put my hands on my child-bearing hips and then transfer the invisible ruler to the toddler-sized tunnel. That’s a no go, too. Mama just won’t fit.
But then there is a hero wooshing by, crunching dry leaves under his feet. It is you, my little boy, her big brother. I hook my finger in the hood of your coat and you rubber-band back to me. I whisper in your ear and point up to the damsel in distress. You look back across the playground at the bad guy getting away.
“I wish I were small enough to slide down with her,” I tell you. In a flash of memory, I see you stranded at the top and remember how I climbed the narrow steps like a firefighter to the rescue and carried you under my arm, back down to safety. I guess I’ll just have to do the same for her.
I look up at your baby sister’s face, all the blood rushed to her cheeks, and the front of her coat soaked with slobber and tears. I take to the stairs. I put my hand on the rail and my size 10 Amazon-woman foot on the first step. Only the tips of my toes fit on the narrow ledge. Kids line up and duck under my arm to dash past as I lumber. One boy slides down the rail, breaking my grasp, and almost sends me tumbling. Then quietly in this chaos of everybody looking out for themselves, a hint of empathy comes under my wing.
“I’ll show her how fun it is,” you say with a twinkle in your eye. You’re nudging other kids out of the way like a first-responder. You reach her and give her a pat on the head. I kiss her tear-stained face and put her in your lap. Your arms wrap around her like a seat belt and she is taking in deep breaths of relief. 1,2,3…go! You spiral down together, smiling big. A few more times with big brother and now she’s bounding the stairs to slide down on her own, over and over…all because he who was small did what only he who was small could do. Let no one despise your smallness. In your smallness you are indispensable, fitting into the crevices of the world, those places impossible for those bigger than you.
(I Timothy 4:12, I Corinthians 12:22)