There is Always Time

Our neighbor Joe used to visit several times a week. Joe was eight years old, polite and respectful, happy, bright-eyed, a popular kid in our neighborhood.  When he stepped onto our front porch, he was usually looking for someone to play with.  Sometimes, his mother sent him to fetch his sister.

Joe knew how to knock appropriately, and he knew our doorbell is unreliable. Most days, he neither knocked nor rang.  Joe preferred to chat with our dogs through the window, until I noticed his voice and the dogs’ cheerful barking. “Mrs. Rogers,” he’d say when he saw me. “Is my sister here?  Please tell her it’s time to come home.”

One mid-summer day, after he delivered his mother’s message, Joe said, “Mrs. Rogers, do you know there is a caterpillar on your door?  A big, fat, fuzzy, white one?”  Joe’s earnest expression made it clear that our front-porch situation was urgent.

I pressed my forehead on the glass door and gazed down, my eyes following his finger.  Sure enough, a caterpillar was dangling from the door spring.  “Yes indeed,” I said.  “I can see it.”

“Well?”  Joe awaited my response.  The awkward pause gave him confidence.  He could see I was missing his point. “Mrs. Rogers, don’t you think I should do something? And, by the way, Mrs. Rogers, don’t open the door. He’ll be squished.”

“What do you have in mind, Joe?” 

“I think I should get a twig, and carefully move him, Mrs. Rogers.”

I agreed that was the right thing to do.  “You can go now, Mrs. Rogers,” he said. “I’ll take care of this.”

It was hard to leave, but I did.  I didn’t want Joe to think I lacked confidence in his ability to tend to the life of a fuzzy caterpillar. I can still picture Joe in my mind, though, his expression, his commitment, the natural way he noticed a caterpillar and cared. Years have passed.  I still think often of Joe and the caterpillar, when I feel too-busy or scattered, when I see Joe, or when I see a butterfly. Joe’s front-porch spirit reminds me still that there is always time to care. 

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