We first met London when we were walking around Parker Square (the apartments where Brendan and his family live) looking for kids going into Kindergarten. At that point, Kistin was the only girl we had enrolled, and we were trying to even out our boy/girl ratio. Things changed when we saw London. London was walking down the sidewalk with her little sister Reagan. Reagan was one of the most strikingly beautiful toddlers I'd ever seen. Her big brown eyes sparkled through her curly black eye lashes which I had to convince myself weren't fake. What instantly impressed me about London was the way she was caring for her little sister. London faithfully kept her arms close to Reagan in the event that she took a tumble.
Trying to appear as unassuming as possible, we walked up to London and introduced ourselves. We made kid small talk about her little sister, complimented her hair barrettes, and tried to appear as cool as possible. London told us that she was 4. Technically, London was not old enough to start Kindergarten – the district doesn't allow kids to enter Kindergarten until they are 5. But there was something magnetic about her. So we took a leap of faith and asked her to point us towards her apartment so we could talk to her mom. London graciously guided us to a blue door on the corner, went inside to get her mom, but returned with the news that her mom wasn't feeling well. Although I must admit, it was a long shot, we gave her some papers including an application and told her to have her mom call us.
I wanted London in my class. All I could do was hope.
A few days later, we were back in the area dropping off some uniforms to other enrolled families and of course we had to go see if we could find London. But having slept since then, we couldn't remember which apartment was hers. I was telling myself how silly I was for not writing down the address, but we asked around and finally a middle school girl said she knew where London lived and lead us right to her house. We knocked on the door, and there was London. Unfortunately, mom wasn't home. We asked London how she was and made kid small talk again for a few minutes, then London’s mom walked up. I was so excited. I told her mom we'd been looking for her. At first she looked concerned as if she was in trouble. I quickly explained why we were so adamant. Kalie recited the schpeel, which we could both recite in our sleep at this point. In that moment, something happened. Her mom’s face transformed from an air of distrust to a smile. Pleased with the educational options we could offer her daughter, she filled out the application on the spot. London would be in our class after all.
In the moment I don't know that Kalie and I understood the full implications of having London in our class. But the past three weeks have shown me why there was something inside Kalie and I that compelled us to chase after this little girl. The little moments have shown us that there is something in London that is deeply connected to the heart of God. The other day Kalie was watching the kinders on the playground (something she kindly does daily so I can prep math centers) when London looked up at her mid-slide and said "Miss Kalie, I think God's smiling down on me right now because He made me special."
Before each meal, I try to give all of the kids a turn to pray, but I would be lying if I didn't say that when it's London's turn I can't wait to hear what she will say. Many of the kids know the recited prayers, which are helpful and sufficient. But when London prays I think she really knows she's talking to God (a concept that is hard to grasp for most 4 or even 40 year olds). She tightly clasped her hands together and squeezed her eyes shut as her brow wrinkled in sobriety. "Dear God. Thank you that you made us special. Thank you for waking us up this morning. Thank you for this dinner. Amen." I wish my words could somehow do justice to the sincerity of her heart as she prayed for our lunch.
On Friday after our field trip each student was issued their snack rations: 1 bag of goldfish and a cheese stick. We let them finish their snack on the bus ride back to school, but London told Miss Crystal that she was not going to eat all of her goldfish. She wanted to take them home to share with her sisters.
It's amazing to feel challenged by the heart of a 4 year old. It's amazing to palpably feel the softness of her heart as she reflects on the God who made her special and eagerly shares the little she has with those she loves.
The little moments continue.
On Friday we took the class to Cave Spring for a fun day of exploring and adventure. When we got to a baby waterfall, London's group had collided with mine. She was eager to hold my hand as she attempted to conquer her fear of walking across the pathway of rocks through the stream. London held my hand and started timidly walking on the rocks. After she had taken a step she stopped. The same sober brow from her lunch prayer was back, but this time out of concern for the rocky path ahead. I asked London if she'd like me to go first. She nodded, so I walked in front as London tightly squeezed my hand. After assuring London she was safe, I slowly navigated a path for us to get to the waterfall. As I looked back, I was struck by London's desire to put her foot exactly where mine had been. A couple of times she stepped on my foot because she was so determined to take the exact same path I had taken.
Again, I was struck by the ways little London teaches me about the heart of God. While many of "the buddies" (as I often endearingly refer to them) were mindlessly hopping across the rocks to their own path, London knew who she trusted and wanted to follow exactly in those steps. Of course there was nothing special about the path I chose. There were many right ways to get across the creek. But London, even in her fear, trusted my footsteps and followed them exactly. I can't help but think about the ways I wander, the ways I slip because I do not follow the right footsteps. I'm so easily tempted to take my own path when the most perfect feet have already walked before me.
Continually challenged by many of my inaugural kindergartners, I can't help but feel overwhelmed with thankfulness that I get the opportunity to cherish the small moments when God's beauty shines through their individual personalities. Constantly, I witness the little moments that remind Kalie and I that this is worth it. It's worth the thousands of dollars it takes to feed the kids and turn on the lights and fill up our bus with $100 of diesel every week. Because we get to nurture and notice the beauty that God has already put in the little people we spend our hours with.