The boys and I are driving home after an afternoon of errands. As we cross the bridge that spans the Mississippi, I notice the clouds. They're broody and dark and the sky in between is a deep blue gash.
By the time we're home, they've knit to a ominous mass and then there is a wild torrent of rain.
We pull in the drive and sit. The back door is down the steps and across the patio.
"I'm going to run in," Gabe says. I turn around and see he's watching the digital clock. It's three. Time for the boys' half-hour of PBS. It's a powerful thing.
"Just wait," I say. "It will slow. If you make a run for it, you'll still be soaked."
"Please?" he asks.
I pop the locks and he's out, down the steps, and fumbling at the door for the right key.
And he's in.
And the rain hits the windshield in hard, angry pelts.
A bit like my mood lately, I recognize. A long-time struggle has left me newly stripped. The raw, inside of me can be as dark as the day.
I sit for a moment and listen to the chatter from the back seat. I watch the rain flow like a river down the the drive.
And then I see the umbrella.
It's a Fighting Illini umbrella, and it's huge. Wide slices of blue and orange move across the patio. I see small legs and feet underneath.
The umbrella bobs up the stairs, stops for a moment as the gate, and pauses outside my van door.
It tips and there is Gabe's smile.
I throw the door open.
"I came to rescue you, Mom," he says.
There he is, this small sprig of a boy, holding this canopy of nylon. He's holding it out to me, wanting to walk me in.
I've been rescued from the rain.
I hold the umbrella and it covers us both. We move fast and Gabe delivers me to the porch. I step inside and he runs back for his brothers.
The struggle, the sadness, hasn't gone away. But the edges have been soothed with a sweet salve. The sweet salve of a loving thing.
Loving others well makes a difference. Simple kindness can shine rays of hope.
Before long the boys are all in and the house is full. There's a thunder of boyness moving toward the family room upstairs. But as Gabe rushes past I reach out and snag him. I pull him close. I whisper in his small, warm ear.
"Thanks," I say. "For rescuing me."
"You're welcome," he says. And he smiles.
But he really has no idea.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds... Hebrews 10:23-24