By Kristeen A. Bruun

Ever since Emma turned twelve (she’ll be fourteen in a month) and could therefore fly without paying an extra surcharge for being an unaccompanied minor, she has every so often come to visit me. We have always had great times together. We have gotten manicures, gone to a painting workshop, and always hit the used bookstore.

Emma and her family do not belong to a church, so church attendance is a mystery to her. Because this is a difficult topic with my son, I have been very careful not to push my beloved religion on Emma.

However, when she first started her visits, she had to come to church with me because I was teaching Sunday school. I was grateful that she didn’t seem to mind. The last time she came, I had transitioned out of teaching. I assumed that church would not be her choice because it wasn’t part of her normal world. But it was Emma who brought it up, “Are we going to church and Sunday school?”

“I’m not teaching anymore,” I said. “We don’t have to go.”

“But I want to go,” Emma said. Then I asked her if she wanted to attend adult Sunday school with me or go to the youth class. She chose the youth class and very independently trotted off.

When we met up in church, I asked the Director of Christian Education how the class had gone. “Fine,” was her answer. Emma participated well and clearly enjoyed being there.

At a recent family gathering, I overheard Emma telling someone, “The people at my grandma’s church like me. They remember who I am and some of them even remember my name.”

I’m not sure where this is going (either this blog, or my church community’s relationship with Emma). The simple acts of human recognition and hospitality are so easy to dismiss as inconsequential, even by someone with a long history of church activity such as myself. Yet clearly they speak to the open heart.

Emma is not yet talking God-talk.  But she is eager to return to Trinity. Even if she never was able to come to Trinity again, she would approach her next church experience with a positive outlook.

I want to remember her experience.

I want to smile more, reach out more, give without expectation of return. This is what my fellow congregants did with Emma. They have no way of knowing about her response. I think they would say that these little gestures don’t matter much.

But, of course, they do.

I haven’t said the name of Jesus yet, because he hasn’t been part of the story. Except that he really has been. People who were following Jesus touched the heart of a little girl by simple acts of kindness.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:7 (ESV)

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