I had seen her before. A young teenager, either socially awkward or a bit developmentally slow. But now we are in the locker room and she comments about how tricky it is to put on her swimsuit. I offer to snap it in the back and she relinquishes the straps. I struggle to make it work and eventually succeed before heading out to the outdoor pool deck and slip into my favorite lane. She heads to the indoor pool and I’m relieved.
I still felt bad. Had I just slammed the door on a divine appointment? The question simmered as I returned my attention to counting my laps and controlling my breathing to prevent bronchial spasms.
Ninety minutes later I exited the warm shower and was running my mind through my next set of tasks: getting dressed as quickly as possible to head across town to grab chicken dinner for friends and then return home to cook our own.
Just steps later, I rounded the locker room corner to use a handy dandy machine that extracts water from swimsuits. There I see a little girl, possibly 4, up on her tippy toes trying to hold down the stainless steel lid of the machine with her tiny hands. For safety reasons the machine won’t run unless it’s down all the way. She hollered for her mother and as I waited, my natural instinct is to begin counting down the wasted seconds. As exacerbation starts to swell up from my core, I squelch it back down while I watch a tender moment between mom and daughter. The pair walk off to the lockers and I begin the process of drying my suit.
As I head back to my own locker an idea rumbles up from the same spot where irritation had just tried to take root.
“You, know,” I said to the little one, “next time you are here, you could grab one of the little step stools in the bathroom. That will give you some more height and power to push down the lid all by yourself.”
“Really?” she said, as she turns and marches into the restroom to scout it out.
“Do you see them? They are a bluish gray,” I responded.
“I do!,” came a small, exuberant voice.
She heads back to her mom, looking a couple of inches taller. On the way she passes by me flashing a wide smile in my direction, “Thank you so much,” she offered without coaching, in a voice more mature than a few minutes ago.
We serve a Father who is the author of first and second chances—and sometimes we don’t have to wait.