Sitting in church recently, I watched the usher walk down the aisle extending the collection basket into each pew so the congregation could drop in their envelopes, one by one.
A few rows in front of me sat a little girl with her family. She must have been two or three. Small, curly hair. Her mother had given her the family’s envelope to drop in the basket when it was their turn.
Somehow, the usher missed the little girl. He must not have seen her there, eagerly holding the envelope out in anxious anticipation. She must have been too small, too reserved. She must have been drowned out by all the commotion of adults singing along to the hymn that was playing, and lots of bigger people sitting around her, blocking her from view.
He walked past that family’s pew, not stretching out the basket and thus not giving the girl a chance to complete her task. He had moved on. And the girl began to cry.
It was subdued at first. She was confused, questioning. There must have been some mistake. But as he proceeded down the aisle something in her mind must have clicked, and she was sure. She began wailing, loudly, her shriek of abandonment outweighing the dulcet tones of the cantor. The usher, only a few pews away, stopped and turned around. He realized what he had done – that he had accidentally skipped over a little girl who was eager to participate, to contribute, to drop her envelope into the basket just as everyone around her seemed to be doing.
Children are the raw, uncensored expression of the emotions that underlie the human experience. As we get older, we come to understand which emotions, and to what degree, are socially acceptable to reveal. Children don’t do this. Children cry when they are hurt, when they are sad, when they are disappointed. They cry when they are uncomfortable, when they are in pain. There is little left to the imagination when it comes to how a child is feeling in a particular situation. They are not difficult to read. And adults wouldn’t be either, if we didn’t try so hard to stifle it all the time.
And sometimes, we learn subtle lessons from a two-year-old. What I learned from this girl today is that we hate being rejected. We can’t stand being forgotten or overlooked. We fear that we may just go unnoticed. We are terrified of not being given our chance to shine, to accomplish that which we set out to do.
When the girl was unnoticed, she let out a scream that the whole church could hear. The usher turned back around. He never meant to ignore her, of course, and she most certainly wasn’t going to let herself be ignored.
How often do we feel invisible? And how often do we wish we could cry out, to be noticed, to make the music stop and everyone around us look up from their daze to realize that we exist?
If we did that, we might get what we wanted. It might be all better. The metaphorical usher might come back around and give us a second chance. The squeaky wheel really does get the grease sometimes. Maybe all we ever needed to do in order to be heard is to do something just loud enough to rouse the attention we so desire.
But then again, that isn’t always good advice.