Last weekend, my husband Scott and I went out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day a little early. We got to the restaurant we had chosen only to realize that we had picked the same place as countless pairs of fathers and daughters. We soon found out that our town was holding the annual Father Daughter Ball that same night and many of the cute “couples” had come to the same place as us to eat.
We were seated next to a table of about fourteen dads and daughters and there was just so much adorableness around us. The girls were dressed in frilly dresses with their hair done up and, what I assumed was, their mom’s jewelry on. They had pulled out all of the stops for their Daddy’s dressed in suits and ties. The girls giggled and talked incessantly to each other while the Dad’s looked on and discussed football.
One little girl said, “If they play ‘Let It Go,’ I’m gonna lose it!”
“Oh, I know!” the others said.
Scott and I giggled the whole time as we watched them all, little women in the making, feeling beautiful and special and spitting out as many words and giggles and twirls as the day is long. It was all so cute and I couldn’t help but smile at them. Something caught my eye though.
At the end of the table, sat a little girl. She was sitting next to her Dad but, where all the other girls had positioned themselves next to a friend and their father, she was friendless, separate from all the other girls. She sat there with her bobbed haircut and bow, with her glasses and a puffy, blue dress and didn’t say a word. My mother’s heart caught at the sight of it, but I convinced myself that it might just be a coincidence, that maybe that’s just how the seating chart fell and all would be right when they were done eating.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye for a little while, waiting for any sign that she wasn’t in fact as alone as it seemed, but nothing came. She ate her food quietly. She messed with her shoe, like there was rock in it or something. She stood up for a minute and wandered over to a painting hanging on the wall. All silently. All by herself. Then there was the clincher.
I had gone to the bathroom and as I was leaving the restroom, all of the little girls from the table paraded, one after the other, into the bathroom together. They where a blur of tulle and sparkles and chatter and I smiled remembering what that felt like. How you would glow as a little girl with your friends, feeling so grown up as you went to the bathroom together; like you were a real woman, you know?
I made my way back to the table with my smile on my lips like lipstick until I saw the table where the girls and their dad’s were sitting. It had emptied by half because all the girls were in the bathroom; all but one. You guessed it, the little girl in blue was there by her Dad, while everyone else was in the restroom.
Now, the Dad’s seemed oblivious to the implications of this. They kept up their Super Bowl talk and eating, but I knew. I knew that this sweet little girl must be feeling so alone and left out. She must be wondering what they were all doing in the bathroom, what they were giggling about, what they were talking about.
She must have been longing to be included, to know what it was like to be a part of the parade of friends that went to the bathroom together, that talked and shared secrets like girls do.
My heart broke into a million pieces and it was all I could do not to get up and walk over to her. To grab her by the hand and tell her that she looked radiant, that I wore glasses just like that when I was little too. To lead her back to the bathroom so she could feel like she was in the club and look at herself in the mirror if only to know what pure and perfect beauty was.
I wanted to so badly and maybe I would have because I know what it’s like to be a little girl and I also know what it’s like to feel a mother’s heart pounding out a battle beat full of concern and love. Thankfully though, I didn’t have to.
A few minutes after the bathroom field trip, two girls with matching leopard print dresses and kind hearts walked over to the little girl with glasses. They stood behind her chair and tapped her on the shoulder. My heart beat fast and I held my breath as the girl in blue turned to the girls in leopard with hope in her eyes.
“Do you want to hang out with us?” the two girls asked.
And I swear, a smile bigger than that whole restaurant overtook the little girl’s face. She looked up at them with unchecked joy and nodded her head. She followed them to the other end of the table and before I knew it, her words were filling the table, her smile was giving it light, and her friends looked on and answered with their own.
It might sound silly, but I almost started crying at the beauty of it all.
It got to me because this scene that I saw was so transcendent. Even as grown women, we all know how it feels to be left out and, as easy as it is to overlook, we all know someone who is left out. The amazing thing that we have going for us as women though, is our power of perception.
Those little girls saw it. They saw the girl at the end who just needed an invitation. They saw her longing and her loneliness and they did something about it. We can do the same.
We can look for the lonely and left out. We can pray for a heart that can be led to them and that can invite them into to friendship and laughter and, yes, even bathroom trips. We have to really, because it’s through friendship that we can share God’s love.
It’s through including the lonely and lost that we act like Jesus. It’s through a sensitivity to what we see and a perception to the heart of the issues we observe that we change lives for the better.
This week, let’s be the grown up version of those two girls in leopard print, the friends who showed that real beauty and maturity and grace is shown when we think of others before ourselves and invite the lonely and hurting hearts to find love and joy and comfort. Let’s be women that show the powerful love of Jesus through the powerful love of friendship.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25: 35-40 NIV