One afternoon last week, as Hal was taking our bicycles out of the garage, a woman pushing a stroller stopped and asked for directions to the nearest park. Two other kids ran around the stroller, while the baby eyed Hal suspiciously. The woman was new in town, and the kids obviously needed somewhere to release their energy. Inspired, Hal told her that he and I were just about to go bike riding, and why didn’t we all go together to the park.
I came out, met our new neighbor, and off we went. It turns out that the woman had just moved in with her boyfriend, and that the kids were his grandchildren. I expressed surprise; she looked young enough to be their mother. She actually had children and grandchildren of her own, living elsewhere.
I was glad we accompanied them, as one part of the route had us walking a narrow sidewalk down a busy avenue, and the kids were apparently glad to be out doors and on the loose. We made it safely to the park and spent the rest of the afternoon together. Hal and I bonded with the two older kids as we rode bikes together and played on the swings. The baby, however, never stopped scowling at us.
Near the end of the afternoon, four-year-old Anabel, looked at me sweetly, head cocked to one side, and asked, “Why do you look so old?”
I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t remember how I responded. I probably just laughed. But the question keeps circling in my mind. Actually, it makes me chuckle. But it’s also forcing me to examine my values, especially in light of a strong cultural pressure to look as good and as young as possible. I’ve been feeling that pressure ever since I was 13 years old, although for a while there I wanted to look older than my age. As I grew up, married, and raised my children, my experience has mostly been that of my new neighbor. I’ve taken pride in all the times people have said things like, “That’s impossible! You look too young to have kids that old!” Or, “You? A grandmother? You certainly don’t look it.” For some reason this has always affirmed my value as a person.
People don’t say that so much anymore. Wonder why. But Anabel’s comment was a first. Well. Thanks be to God for a sense of humor. I guess I can see this as a good opportunity to realign my values with those of God’s Kingdom.
I hope I run into my young-looking neighbor again. I probably will since they live close by. I wonder what helpful thing Anabel will say to me next.