As children across the country have been celebrating the last day of school, my kids hosted their own end-of-school carnival for their friends in our backyard.
I say "carnival" loosely because it was a project envisioned, engineered, constructed, and carried out completely by the kids, all of whom happen to be 10 or under.
There were 17 kids in our smallish backyard. As my only responsibilities were to provide drama control (15 of the 17 were girls) and keep the snack shack in constant supply, it was a fairly easy day for me. The kids did their thing at their various stations for several hours, and I chatted the day away with parents on the deck.
Then a car pulled up in my neighbor's driveway. A woman rolled down her window and, with great hope in her eyes, called out to ask if I was operating an at-home day care.
I began laughing hysterically at the thought . . . until I saw her hope disappear. She looked so disappointed. I walked over to her as she began pouring out her story: single grandmother with sole custody of her two young grandchildren looking for some kind of a lifeline, wondering if it might be attached to the tree in my backyard.
I affirmed her in her role and acknowledged how hard it must be. I shook my head sadly as I told her I wasn't aware of any in-home day cares in our neighborhood and that, while we might look like one here, we're really just four families getting together for an afternoon of play.
Not wanting to send her away empty-handed, I gave her the name of the seminary we have connections with and told her a new seminary wife looking for work might be just the ticket for her. Hope slowly began to return to her life-weary eyes. She thanked me and backed out of my neighbor's driveway, leaving me to the 17 kids in my backyard having a grand old time.
The five-minute conversation made me profoundly thankful for my situation and equally sad for hers. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I saw hope deferred in that poor woman's face. And I longed to give her something better than another "what if," but I had nothing else to offer.
What does hope look like when extended to a weary grandmother lamenting her grandchildren's challenges because of her own child's parental failures? What would you have said? What would you have done?