Alesha, my niece, at the time, was 9 years old when her grandfather, my father died in May, 1999. a visitor from Oklahoma to Indianapolis, Indiana, I went to stay with her and her mother while I was to attend the funeral.
While my sister assisted the family in the funeral preparations, I was given the awesome task of caring for and providing entertainment. “Old enough to keep up with your old uncle, eh!” No sooner had I said this, than I wished I hadn’t. I didn’t know much about Alesha except by the letters and pictures I received from my sister about her. Prior to this visit, I had only seen Alesha two times. In both instances, Alesha was a toddler. So she could not possibly know who I am. So how do you entertain a small girl who probably doesn’t know you from Adam? Will I traumatize her for life? What do I know about this 9 year old little girl? How can I entertain her for the two or three hours her mother was going to be gone? Will she go through separation anxiety?
On the cool May Indiana afternoon, I remembered I brought my laptop computer with me from Oklahoma. There isn’t a child alive, I thought, that would not be entertained by the bells and whistles of a computer. I took the computer out of its bay then hooked it up to the telephone jack and began searching the website for games or programs I thought might entertain Alesha. I had only two goals in mind: 1) Keep Alesha busy; 2) Treat her in a mature manner—no juvenile baby stuff her!
While Alesha quietly played at the computer games, I got on the cell phone to order the largest pizza and drink I could locate. All the while I wondered: Is she enjoying herself? Why doesn’t she react more? Maybe she doesn’t really like playing computer games and is just doing so to please me! I began to have misgivings about taking care of her.
Two days after the funeral, it was time to return home to Oklahoma. Silently, I packed clothes, computer and other writing materials then closed the soft material suitcase. Taking care of Alesha was a mistake, I thought. Perhaps I did not tailor my childcare for a 9 year old. Maybe everything was beyond her age range.
As her mother and I made our final good-byes, then hugged and kissed Alesha, tears began rolling down her face. “Alesha! What’s wrong?” I said. Terrified and afraid I did something horribly wrong and out of the ordinary, I went speechless.
Alesha did not reply.
“What’s wrong? Is something hurting you? You can tell us, okay?”
“It’s just,” she said in timid sobs, “it’s just that I don’t want you to go away uncle.”
I was shocked and left speechless for a few minutes. Then I explained that I had to go to my home in Oklahoma where I was expected to return to work the next day. When I finally made it home, I received a call from my sister that Alesha cried much of day wondering when I would come through the door to provide her with comfort and entertainment.
What a mistake I had made. I expected Alesha to explode with excitement at everything I had done during my stay in Indianapolis. But she did not respond as I expected. After thinking about what was done, I concluded I should never have tried to plan my activities expecting her to respond in the manner I wanted from her.
Since that trip to Indianapolis, I have given a great deal of thought about what I did to my 9 year old niece. I think about that event each and every time I pray to God and wonder why He doesn’t immediately respond the way I want Him to—or expect Him to.
In many ways, when I think about it, God, like Alesha, has His own way of responding as well as time. I need to have the courage and patience to wait or expect God to do what He will do knowing that His response may not be what I want but that the response will be what is best for me.