Monday, September 19, 2016

The Parable of the Two Under-shepherds

There were once two under-shepherds, who helped to tend the flocks owned by a kind shepherd. One day, the kind shepherd told his under-shepherds that he needed to travel to the city to buy more provisions for them and the sheep. "While I am gone," said the shepherd. "I want you to divide the flocks between the two of you and care for them. Take them out every morning and bring them in every night. Keep our sheep safe, and I will return in a fortnight."

The first under-shepherd was determined to please his master. Every day, he took the sheep out as soon as the sun peeked out from behind the hillside, determining that this was exactly morning. He brought the sheep back into their pen just as the first star started shining, for this must be night. While he was out in the fields with the flock, he patrolled the edges of the meadow all day. He made sure to guide any sheep that got close to the forest's edge back to the flock. He walked around and the around his little group of sheep.

The second under-shepherd also wanted to do his job well. Every morning, he lead his part of the flock to a meadow to graze. He wasn't very good at singing, as other shepherds are, but he loved to dance, and he would dance for his sheep. He bandaged the legs of sheep who cut themselves on rocks or fallen branches. He took the sheep to a delicious stream fed from a mountain spring.

Finally, the shepherd returned from the city. He called his under-shepherds to him to report on how they cared for the sheep.

The first under-shepherd said, "I did exactly what you asked. Every morning, I lead the sheep out of their pen just as the sun came up. Every night, I gathered the sheep into their pen just as the first star shone. I patrolled the meadow while the flock grazed, and I kept the sheep safe."

The second under-shepherd said, "I didn't know exactly what you wanted, but I knew that you love our sheep. So I danced for the sheep. I bandaged their wounds. I took them to drink in a sweet mountain stream."

And which did the shepherd praise more at the end of the day?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kids at the Park: Field Notes

Children at the park are, perhaps, God's greatest invention. Or at least his most entertaining.

1. Five kids, plus their mom. You can tell the two-year-old adores her older sister. She follows her to the bathroom and chants her name (something like "Ken-ne-dy") while the older sister pees.

2. Kennedy, who's 4 or 5, discovers the drinking fountain. She punches the button in rapid succession, making the water jump in rhythmic spurts. "mom Mom MOm MOM MMOOOOOMMMMM" she yells until her breast-feeding mother looks over. "Wow, Sweetie, it's like it's dancing."

3. Packing up time. "Everyone has to grab everything that they brought. Mommy can't carry it all." The two-year-old patters around the table, loaded down with her "purse" and Hello Kitty backpack, which swings around like a furry shield. She forgets one shoe, and comes back.

4. Two sisters in dresses struggle to climb onto the swings. The younger one clambers up, flashing the  entire neighborhood. The older one's dress is not so flappable.

5. A blonde girl rides up on her purple ten speed. She looks at the sisters, then at me, sitting on a bench by the bathrooms. "Are you their mom?"

6. The blonde biker decides to help the older sister. "How old are you?" First question. The sister: "I'm 8, how old are you?" The biker: "I'm 10. Are you 5?" The younger sister, swinging hard and grinning: "6!"

7. The biker sits next to me. She is wearing a striped shirt and plaid shorts.
"It's hot out here," she says. She fans herself.
"Yep." Pause. "How did you know their mom wasn't here?" I look at the moms around the park.
"I know them from school." She scoots closer. "Their older sister always walks ahead and leaves them. I don't think that's very nice."
"It seems like you like to take care of people."
"Yeah. There's a lot of babies in my family."
"So you're the oldest?"
"No. The babies are two cousins and a nephew."
"Oh." Pause. "So you all live together?"
"No, they live in Indiana."
She talks so easily to strangers. "Do you always make friends when you come to the park?"
"Yes. I'm here everyday. Unless there's no one here. Then it's boring and I go home."

8. The blonde biker and the sisters explore the park together. They ask the maintenance workers if they can use the workers' spray hose. The workers say no. The girls play tag instead.

9. A young boy with shoulder-length blonde hair is crying; he has to wait his turn on the swings. He finds a stick and stops crying. He pings the stick against the metal swingset and then proceeds to whack the wood chips, which spray in the air. Eventually he settles for throwing wood chips at his dad's behind, yelling, "I hit your butt!" every time.

10. This family also uses the bathroom, the father taking his son into the women's side. "Daddy is this the boys' bathroom?"
"Yes, Frankie it is. Now go pee."
I decide not to correct him. After all, he did have wood chips thrown at his butt.