Our family spent the weekend in Big Bear. We had a beautiful cabin to enjoy, lots of snow to play in and snowboarding/skiing fun for Jay and the older kids. It was really a fantastic weekend for our family in every regard.
We went to mass on Sunday at St. Joseph's, the parish serving Big Bear Lake. We had never been there before and found the church to be very welcoming to visitors (they must be really used to them). In fact, as you will soon learn, I have never felt quite so welcome in a church other than my own!
After experiencing the usual struggles one endures having seven children in church, an older man approached us just as mass ended. He asked me if all these "angels" (his word!) were mine. I replied that they were, all seven of them. His eyes filled with tears, he grabbed my hand and stuffed something into it and said, "Do me a favor and buy them all an ice cream cone. I never had seven, but I had five under five once and seeing you brings it all back. God bless you for what you are doing."
I correctly assumed the "something" he had stuffed in my hand was money, and while normally it would be my inclination to say I couldn't possibly accept his gift but thank you very much, the look on his face let me know that I should just graciously accept it, so I did. Very obviously, the giving of this gift gave him enormous pleasure.
As fast as he appeared, he disappeared, and when he was gone I looked at what he had given us. To my utter amazement, it was a $50 bill. I was absolutely speechless, and this time it was my own eyes that filled with tears.
You know how on TV there are shows about God walking on earth looking like an ordinary person, subtly changing the lives of people he encounters? I felt like that. Like God had touched me very directly through this man. Like He was affirming our choice to raise a large family, and our efforts (more intense lately due to general economic conditions) to save more and spend less.
It will be a very long time before I forget this encounter--it impacted me far more than the actual cash value of $50. I hope to pay this forward to a young family some day. I already know I will enjoy the giving even more than the receiving, as did our benefactor.
See? I've been trying to tell you: it pays to go to church!