Three-year-old Ana smacks a kiss on my mouth. I’ve just handed her a baby doll, complete with pacifier. Something to keep her company on her days-long bus ride to Florida.
Whatever pleasure I got out of finding that doll in our used toy bin at the Nazareth migrant hospitality center just got magnified a hundredfold.
Juana is 13. Too old for a doll.
Or so I thought.
But her eyes widen when she sees the one I’ve given Ana.
“Do you like dolls?” I ask in Spanish.
“Si.” She smiles. Off I go to locate another.
I have the perfect one in mind. Eyes as big as half dollars. Strawberry-colored plastic hair. The kind you can’t comb. But her face is more mature. Just right for a girl who’s probably never owned a doll in her life.
Why do I love packing a toy in these children’s travel bags? Why do I take pleasure in seeing their delight?
The answer, I think, lies somewhere in understanding the gift of pleasure.
If you’re a parent, you know the absolute pleasure of seeing your child delight in receiving a longed-for gift or special surprise.
I believe that the One who loved us into being takes that kind of pleasure in us.
And that God longs for us to take pleasure in the abundance of life. A life gifted to us. Created for us to enjoy. As fully alive beings.
Sometimes, in between running around getting care packages ready for the migrants, answering their needs, calling for volunteer drivers, I have to step outside to get food in the walk-in fridge next door. And sometimes I pause and stand there in the sunlight. Look up into that constantly blue sky.
And give thanks. Aware of the pleasure I am receiving as well as giving.
Whether it’s in giving a special gift to a child. Preparing a meal for someone who’s hungry.
Receiving expressions of affection.
Or taking in the beauty of a golden full moon on a Friday night. Like I did tonight.
An abundance of opportunities to experience the pleasures of an abundant life.
But I have to say, I’m not always aware of them.
As Jesus said, it is God’s good pleasure “to give you the kingdom.” That kingdom is already alive in you. Alive in me.
Can I keep giving myself over to it? Can I fully accept this gift?