“I feel so sad for them,” my 5-year-old said contemplatively. “All those caterpillars won’t have a mom and dad anymore.”
We were on a walk together and looked down to see dozens of caterpillars lying in the hot sun—some alive, some dead, and some just barely hanging on.
I smiled a little at how earnestly he cared about the well-being of these little creatures that most people wouldn’t think twice about. It reminded me of when I was little, rescuing as many of my “bug friends” as I could in our backyard. I thought of all the times I’d been considered too sensitive because of how deeply I felt things, and how sometimes I wondered if that were true.
So I almost laughed off his comment or tried to quickly brush it away by saying something like, “Oh they’ll be OK! They probably have other family and friends nearby.”
But instead, I stopped myself.
And I thought about this boy in front of me and the man I’m praying he becomes.
I thought about how I want him to be the type of person who notices. The type of person who cares about the details in this world that other people walk right by. The kind of person who isn’t afraid to feel deeply but who also doesn’t get overwhelmed by the weight of all those feelings.
As those thoughts meandered through my mind, I looked down at him and said, “It is sad, isn’t it? I feel bad for them too.”
“Yeah,” he said.
After acknowledging the sadness for a few moments, we walked along. There were more caterpillars along the way, and as we neared one that obviously didn’t have much life left in him I said . . .
“We can’t rescue all the caterpillars. But you know what? We can at least rescue this one in front of us.”
“YEAH!” he exclaimed and quickly rushed to try to help. He gently moved the fuzzy little creature into the shade and gave him some water, completely satisfied that we’d made his life a little better that day.
He looked down at the content caterpillar and said, “Now the next time we come here maybe he will be a butterfly!”
We continued to help more caterpillars along the way, getting strange looks from people walking by. But it didn’t matter because one of the things I want more than anything is for my children to become adults who know empathy. Adults who know self-care but aren’t self-absorbed. Adults who aren’t completely overwhelmed by all the problems in the world but who see and are willing to help the one person right in front of them.
Adults who remember how Jesus would leave the 99 just to rescue the one. I pray for them to reflect His heart to this world in the little moments when no one else sees but Him. And I long for them to experience the deep, satisfying joy of being rescued by Him and loved by Him because I know then they will experience the unquenchable joy of giving that love away to those around them.
And as their mother, I’m learning day by day that the biggest lifelong lessons are hidden in the littlest moments.
And my children are listening and watching and learning—like caterpillars quietly growing and transforming in their cocoons. So I want to stoop down for the little moments and pause to notice the one—the one bug or wounded animal or scratched knee or homeless person or friend in need or teardrop. The one moment in this one life I’m given.
I want to be intentional with this sacred gift of time to pour into my children because they are emerging right before my eyes.
The next time we walk down that path, maybe we will see some butterflies. And maybe my 5-year-old will remember to always remember the one.