March 5th was the first Sunday of Lent.
Before church, I met a friend at a coffee shop a few blocks from church. As we were chatting, I noticed a little boy, who couldn’t have been older than three, who was standing near us. He walked in a circle on the welcome mat near us a few times, and I kept glancing at him. He was cute, with dark hair and long lashes, and a slightly snotty nose.
And then, a moment later, I noticed that the look of wonder in his eyes had grown to a look of panic, and he began to pace the mat faster and faster.
And then he started to whimper.
I abruptly left the conversation I was having with my friend and knelt down to the boy’s level.
“Are you lost?” I asked.
His face froze, and he nodded.
“Mommy. Mommy,” he said, as his voice choked with sobs.
I held out my hand to try to make myself as unthreatening and inviting as possible.
He was so small, he couldn’t completely clasp my grown-up hand; it took all the fingers he had just to grip my index finger.
When he latched on, he clung to me as if the sum total of his precious life was at stake.
“You’re not lost,” I said softly. “We just have to get you found.”
I didn’t pick him up or offer him my lap, because I can only imagine how threatening those gestures might feel to a small child, coming from a strange adult.
I just knelt on the floor, and let him clutch my finger.
And I didn’t wipe his nose. I just let the snot trickle down. Because how would you feel if a stranger came at you with a cloth big enough to suffocate your face?
He clutched my finger as he did a 360-degree turn, looking for his mom.
When no one looked familiar, he returned to me, clinging to my finger while raising his gaze to a staircase that led to the bathrooms, which were on the second floor.
After a few moments, he spotted his mom at the top of the staircase, along with his older brother.
With abandon, he released my finger and ran to his mom’s familiar embrace.
On the first Monday of Lent, I’m reminded of how it feels to be lost — in our faults, in our sadness, in our worries, in our fallenness, in the chaos and confusion of our world.
And, as we sit in the darkness of Lent for 40 days, I’m reminded that maybe the best thing we can do for each other, when we spot the lost and panicked look in each others’ eyes, is to hold out our hand and say to our brothers and sisters, “Hold on. Hang in there. Our Divine Parent is coming for us.”
And remind each other that never, for a single second, are any of us lost.
Sometimes we’re just waiting to get found.