Tonight, I attended an informal get together of a large group of friends. In that group, there were three children. One of them happened to be one of the kids I teach every other Sunday in church.

Mid-meeting, I saw him climbing over people out of the corner of my eye. I made eye contact with his grandmother, who mouthed that he wanted to sit on my lap. I mouthed back, “Absolutely,” and nearly threw my sewing project off my lap. The only reason I didn’t was because of the needle.

I found out later that without invitation, without prompting, that little boy–a boy who just two years ago had been too shy to say hello to me–had announced he wanted to sit with me and had been terribly disappointed when there were no seats available to my left or right. When his grandmother had suggested maybe that I might left him sit on my lap (as if there were any doubt), his eyes got wide and his face lit up and he scrambled over to see me.

When he did arrive and crawl onto my lap, placing his hands on top of mine, all I could think was, “I want this.  Child in my lap, hugs and love, trust.  I want this.”  Perhaps it was selfish, but for a while it was all my mind would concentrate on.  It took some time to focus, to concentrate on giving this love and trust back, to pay attention to what the child needed from me.

And thankfully, by the end of the night, I had remembered that because of the love of some of the world’s most amazing children, I do have what I want.  These children may not be mine biologically, I may not take them home at night, I may not get angry with them as often as I love them, but they still give me that unconditional love.  They announce to their grandparents and parents that they want to go sit on my lap, they tell me they love me over the phone, they look at pictures of lava and proclaim it to be cheese in a hilariously inappropriately loud voice, they send me thank you notes signed in big letters (half of them backwards).  I’m learning not just to want to inspire that love in others, but to want to give it, too.  These children give me what I’m re-learning to give.

And as I give it, that same warm feeling of home and comfort that comes with a child on my lap fills me to overflowing.  It is the best feeling in the world.