Sometimes profundity comes out of nowhere, illuminating a universal truth in an unlikely moment. I suspect that the vast majority of daily profundity that rains upon my ears goes entirely unnoticed. That said, when the stars align, and I’m paying attention to the really small bits of life, like oncoming traffic and smoke in the kitchen, I walk away with a nugget or two.

For example, recently, a good friend recounted an exasperating story that involved one of his children. He described how, after a bit of chasing, he reclaimed his offspring some distance down the sidewalk. With child in hand, he headed home. A smiling neighbor who observed the capture of the runaway commented, “Children are here to make saints out of us.”
After hearing this story, I pondered the quote. I suppose all that talk in Paul’s epistles about patience and bearing each other’s shortcomings could be relevant to parents and children, too. And as Thomas á Kempis writes, “There’s profit to be derived everywhere.”

With that, I recalled how my own children had recently been hard at work.
Our youngest, John, facilitated a lesson on patience that week when he chose to practice his penmanship on our recently purchased sectional. Although to a 2-year-old it was a seemingly suitable writing surface for promoting fine motor skills, I was anxious. At the height of my exasperation, however, I recalled having practiced my “4s” in the family Bible as a child. Unfortunately, they resembled pitchforks: a touch of heathen bravado for good measure, I suppose. I felt more patient already.

Children also teach humility. One chilly Sunday afternoon, Grace, 7, and I played chess in front of the fire. I had a great idea:

“Would you like me to play as hard as I can?” I asked.

“Um, OK.” She replied, a little nervous. I quickly studied the board, and began to strategize. I promptly moved and captured a bishop with my knight.

“What, sweetie?”

“Are you being funny?”

“What do you mean?”

“You just captured your own guy.”

“Oh, yes, I see, um, that does appear to be the case.”
They also teach sacrifice. Nighttime cries for comfort often result in unorthodox sleeping arrangements. I went to console young John, and lay next to him on his bed and promptly fell asleep. Upon waking, I realized I had slept with my face smashed into the netting of his guardrail. On the bright side, if the imprint held firm, I knew I had the option of dressing up as a tennis racket next Halloween.
Even though I had not brought along my alarm, I managed to wake up, as usual, at 6:30 on the dot. It could have been a strange coincidence; then again, it could have had something to do with the fact that John was bonking his head into my spine with a bold, primal intensity rarely seen outside of the African Savannah. Although, really, how could I get angry with him when, with each bone crushing bonk, he enthusiastically uttered, “Mow’nin, Dad.”

Minus such unintended savagery, children teach through their innocence. There is nothing like watching a sleeping child to help call to mind parental shortcomings exhibited previously. The words “slow to anger” reverberate, often filling the stillness of the room. The thought of being impatient with such an angel becomes unthinkable. What came over me?

Was it the recent Nerf gun ambush? Did I incur permanent head trauma? Such questions seem unanswerable. That is, of course, until breakfast rolls around and said angel begins submerging Buzz Lightyear into his glass of milk. Oh, yes, now I remember.

Yet, children teach faithfulness. That same morning, mere moments after having to fish Buzz out of the milk glass, I heard what sounded like a respirator expanding and contracting in the front entryway, “Pwap, pop, pwap, pop, pwap, pop.” I followed the sound and saw John squeezed up against the window, blowing kisses to his mom as she drove down the street. I picked him up and placed him on the floor.
“I miss Mom,” he said. “Yeah, me, too.”
It was a touching moment.
Then he smacked his sippy cup into my leg and cried out, “More chocowat milk, please.”
“Certainly,” I replied, limping back to the kitchen.
I do believe that smiling neighbor was right.

(Joe is married to Teresa. They have three active children and run a joyful home in Plymouth. Opportunities for heavenly-inspired humor abound. Joe, a librarian, and Teresa, a physical therapist, are parishioners at St. John the Baptist, Plymouth.)