Publication Information: Putnam, C. L. (2004, Nov / Dec). Little Lambs. Christian Woman Magazine, 20(6), 15.
Rushing around to get ready for a recent conference in a nearby city, I threw my clothes in one bag and Keith’s in another. He would be staying for two nights at the home of Ronny Copeland, one of our shepherds. I’m a single mom, so this was an extra special treat for my little fellow who so craved the attention of adult men. I tried to think ahead about what he would need. Extra socks, for sure. A toothbrush. A jacket. What else? “My equipment,” Keith announced, “I need my equipment.” And so basketball, bat, glove, baseball, football, helmet, pads, and jerseys were tossed into the mix. Can’t travel without it. I ought to know that by now.
All week he had asked me, “What do you think we will do there?” I didn’t really know, but I was sure it would be “guy stuff”. It wasn’t his first visit. Last time the two of them had gone to a ball game in Jackson. They had hauled wood, tossed footballs, and made runs to the hardware store. Then there was the time they had managed to drive through Ronny’s fence; the follow-up visit was spent hammering boards back into place. Many times he had finagled a ride to dinner with Ronny after Sunday night church, Betty and I following along as a sort of afterthought.
My conference was busy, and I never gave a thought to Keith’s care while I was away. Of course he wasn’t ready to come home when I returned. “Can I stay for a week?” he wanted to know. What had they been up to? I asked. Visits to sporting goods stores (how often does he get that with Mom?), yard work (he loves it – doesn’t get that from me either!), playing with the puppy, and one other project: I’m not sure I want to know all the details, but paint was definitely involved. I know, because there’s still some in his ear that I can’t get out. His new favorite cereal is Reese’s Puffs (“Mr. Ronny let me pick it out myself!”). He didn’t want it to end.
Mr. Ronny isn’t the first shepherd in Keith’s life. Many are the times he has crawled into Tom Burton’s lap during church, snagging a hug or a peppermint or, later, flirting with Mr. Tom’s daughter. When he was small, he would sit with both hands on Mr. Tom’s face, running his fingers over his mustache and exploring the roughness of his beard. At times, getting through church with him resembled trying to hold onto a rotisserie chicken. But Tom didn’t seem to mind Keith’s turns and wiggles. Tucking his small body comfortably in his arms, Mr. Tom would produce elaborate drawings of trains, fire trucks, or swimming pools on command. And at the end Tom would always laugh and say, “Well, we made it.”
I guess this is just what shepherds do. Tom. Ronny. Countless others through the years, in other places, other times. Shepherds playing with the little lambs. And somehow, in the midst of puppies and peppermints, baseball and hammering on fences, the lambs learn to listen to the voice of the shepherds.