If you have a toddler and have not yet discovered Daniel Tiger, I would recommend making fast friends with him. As my brilliant sister-in-law once told me, Daniel Tiger helps our children build socio-emotional skills. He also sings some pretty catchy songs that range from learning how to “count down to calm down” to expressing “I’m mad, mad, mad. It helps to say I’m mad” to using the word ambivalent, which I am not sure that any two-year-old really needs to know.
In a recent episode, Daniel brings an egg salad sandwich for lunch. His friend, Miss. Elaina, says something to the effect of “Ew, that smells gross, I don’t like egg salad.” I’m not going to lie, this exchange brought me back to Holy Family Cathedral school and my own love for the socially unpopular tuna salad sandwich. Daniel Tiger builds real life skills, people. The ever compassionate and creative Teacher Harriet observes the exchange, and offers a worldview in song, “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same.”
A few days ago, I got to hear Lenny DeLorenzo speak at the Diocese of Orange Educators Convocation. I know Lenny from Notre Dame, and will be 100% up front in saying that I buy in to most everything that he publishes and presents. This tends to happen when I find a theologian whose career as a scholar intersects with real life.
Lenny’s keynote was about stories of grace. If you have been around young children, perhaps particularly around bedtime, you have been asked, “Tell me a story?” We are creators of stories. And the stories we tell make a difference. Let’s not pretend that stories are only for children, childish things of the past. We have narratives always running in our minds. The stories we tell can be full of truth or untruths. They can keep us in prisons of anger, insecurity and fear, or they can set us free.
What is the story told in culture, particularly through technology? Technology constructs a worldview that says, there is always somewhere else you can be other than where you are right now. Click here. There is always more content coming, viral for your survival. Scroll down to see more. Information and people are meant to be used for your needs. Cut, paste, onto the next thing. This narrative is not neutral. It is creating hearts and minds in young people (and in us) that cease to rest, cease to play, cease connect. That wonder, Who can I trust? What is true? Do I matter?
There is a counter-narrative. And anyone who has experienced it knows that it is true. The counter-narrative is God breaking into our lives. God coming to meet us in the midst of laundry and cooking, phone calls and emails, breakfast and car rides, babies waking in the dark of morning or night.
Stories of grace name how God has, does and will care for, tend to, speak to, comfort, forgive and love me and you. Think back over the last day or week or month. Can you find a moment where you think that you experienced God’s personal touch in your life? Was there a moment of joy, sacrifice, mystery, awe, zeal or perhaps even righteous anger in this time for the Church, that were given to you, not totally of your making or contriving?
I’ll circle back to Daniel Tiger to share a story of grace with you.
Thomas and I were sitting on the floor in a pillow fort not too long after learning from Daniel that “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same.” As we were flipping through train books, assembling doggy-firefighter puzzles, and talking, Thomas sang out, “In so many ways, we are the same.” I questioned, Thomas, “We are the same?” expecting him to talk about the egg salad sandwich episode. Instead, he said, “Yes, full of God.”
This moment reveals to me the goodness in my son, a goodness given to him by God. It reveals an openness and simplicity that I adore. It reveals a God of love who speaks in the language of Daniel Tiger and pillow forts.
It is our God’s nature to write stories of grace in our lives. It’s who God is. Let’s listen and watch, and then live our lives in witness to this. When we do, we find what is most true. We discover that we matter and are loved more than logic can tell. And we know from whom we have come and to where we are going.