My first thought was, “What’s that doing there?“ I was walking through the church narthex when I noticed a small rock perched on a window sill. It was late July, in the middle of the week when that place that is always so full of energy on a Sunday was empty and quiet.
As I went over to have a closer look, I saw that that the rock a drawing on it. That’s when I remembered.
On Easter, in between the two worship services we have on that “full church” day, our congregation offers an Easter egg hunt. The children of our community gather out on the playground and when the leader gives the signal, they fan out rapidly to find the eggs filled with little gifts that the adults have hidden for them there. As the tradition has grown, the older children have learned to pass over the eggs in plain sight, leaving them for the little ones to find. They look for the more carefully hidden ones and once they have found a few, circle back to help their younger friends. It is a time of chaos, care, and fun.
In anticipation of the Easter egg hunt, and because most families with young children get up early on Easter Sunday, our first worship service of that day is always full of kids. After our community worship time we dismiss those kids to their own “special sermon time.”
Anyone who has ever been with a group of children who have already ingested way over their usual daily allowance of sugar, and can hardly wait for something else that is about to begin, knows how hard it can be to “lead.” Simple survival is usually the goal. Last year, I was the pastor who was designated to be with that group. What should we do with that time before the egg hunt began?
As we thought about it, something occurred to me. Maybe you have noticed that people have begun to small paint rocks and leave them around for others to find. Here on Whidbey Island, this practice has become so popular that there is a Facebook page called “Whidbey Island Rocks” where people post pictures of rocks they have found or rocks they have painted and hidden. (And as an aside, in what seems to be a sad reflection of our times, there is also a page called “Whidbey Island Anti-rocks” where you can go “if you’re tired of all the drama on Whidbey Island Rocks.”)
So last Easter Sunday, when adults had hidden gifts for our children, we decided to let the kids give back. They would create “encouragement” eggs (rocks) and hide them for the adults.
I know handing out rocks to sugar-amped children can be iffy but this time it paid off. The kids loved creating the messages and “hiding” their gifts for the adults to find. Like the thoughtful adults who hid the kid’s eggs, some children placed their rocks in plain view. Others were very clever with their hiding places. Then, just before worship ended, we all went back into the sanctuary and I told the congregation what the children had done. “Look for those gifts of encouragement,” I said.
Sure enough, after the benediction, while the children ran off to the playground for their Easter egg hunt, the adults grabbed their coffee and began finding their gifts.
It was one of those delightful, unpredictable times when the children got to be excited not only for their own adventures, but also for what the adults were experiencing. After their egg hunt, several of the children returned to see if their gifts had been found. If the rocks were still where they had been hidden, the children began whispering clues to the adults around them. Watching all that intergenerational caring was truly magical for me.
And now it was late July. The sanctuary and narthex were empty. And I was holding this rock in my hand.
It could be that the rock had just been overlooked for three months. But it was in such an easy-to-spot place that I suspected someone had put it there recently. Maybe someone found the rock on Easter Sunday and brought it back to pass the blessing along. Maybe someone found it in a tucked-away place and moved it out into the open. Maybe the rock was not from Easter at all but from someone who had just recently been inspired to create it and leave it there. Perhaps someone reading this blog knows something about this particular rock that I don’t. But someone had clearly left this gift, an anonymous encouragement to someone else along the way.
However it got there, I was grateful to find it. We all need those random gifts sometimes. I am no different. I held it gently in the palm of my hand, let myself absorb the encouragement it represented, and then put it back down. It was still there last I checked. Waiting as a gift for someone else along the way. Maybe it’s waiting for you.