I snuck into The Corner today. The Corner is an office I share at work with the preschool director. It is a space-in-process, as is our entire ministry here. The corner had 15 random chairs in it this week. It’s a room in which people tend to drop stuff off because, “we don’t need it, but you might.”
I came in today to try to organize the corner. I have a need to make things both functional and beautiful. In this intensive business of being with people and the hard stuff of life we can’t control, I sometimes wish I had followed one of my earlier desires to be an architect and work more often with lines and spaces and ponder how things are used instead of endlessly pondering issues of life and death and sickness and health and justice and conflict and God Almighty.
A tiny one from the preschool room next door visits almost as soon as I arrive. He was born beautiful, and still at two is utterly silent. He likes to hold things in his little fists, and so he is clutching an assortment of cars and legos. His eyes make me hear the hymn Deep River in my mind. When Mrs. Hogan introduces him to me, he instantly lets go of her shoulders and reaches for me with both arms outstretched.
I sway while holding him. He is a young two and still uncertain of the world. He has curly blonde hair so perfect I have to resist wrapping it around my index finger.
He doesn’t stay long. I return to sorting an anxious scattering of papers on the floor. I shred, flatten, file, a few things. Soon he wanders into the corner again. He walks over to look at the keyboard. He looks out the window. He stands near me pondering the mess at my feet. He returns to his classroom.
The corner and the Pre-Kindergarten classrooms are connected so I am accustomed to such visits, though they usually come with considerably more “look at me!” actions.
He has wandered in again, so quietly I might have missed him had my back been turned. Mrs. Hogan comes in to get him.
“He can stay,” I say.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Let’s let him come and go for awhile and see what he does.”
We are hoping to help him talk and interact more fully with the other children and teachers. He lives right now primarily through what he sees and hears and touches. But he keeps it in the quiet within himself. He listens far more than he talks and compared to his classmates, this is noteworthy. He wanders back to his classroom. And back to me.
Mrs. Hogan stops in again.
“He has taken to you,” she says.
“Or this space,” I reply.
I look around The Corner with its mismatched chairs and anxious paper and broken items waiting for tape or glue or a nail. I sigh.
He wanders in again, stopping to gaze at the way the sun comes through the blinds making lines on the hope chest, and holds a tiny tiger in the light.
He returns to his classroom.
Mrs. Hogan stands in the doorway. I say, “His visits make me want to make The Corner beautiful all the more. It needs art. Soft things. An aquarium maybe.”
“Yes,” she says. “A place of peace.”
She returns to her classroom. I vaguely hear voices raised in joy for just a moment. She comes back to the doorway, smiling, “He said fish! Clear as a bell. Held up a toy fish and said, ‘fish’.”
I wonder if he too came into The Corner and envisioned an aquarium. I imagine him standing near it quietly and my absolute inability to do anything else except stand with him.
I continue the sorting, and write in thick black marker on a box: Remember. It’s a box in which I put mementos and notes from individuals I have comforted. I’ve had a Remember box ever since I became a pastor. It helps me forget the things that are too easy to remember, and remember the things that remind me who I am.
Mrs. Hogan brings his twin sister to visit. This little one tells me her name, which only has 3 letters, but sounds like 5 syllables when she says it.
She leaves and I write their names on a green construction paper sea turtle and pin it to the calendar to help me remember.
I return to the nemesis of paper which has even less importance to me than it did when I started. I ponder getting an aquarium. And a soft rug. Maybe I’ll put them near the window where the sun stripes in through the blinds. Maybe I’ll hold a toy to the sun and see how the light changes.