Once upon a time not so long ago, like maybe yesterday, or tomorrow, there was a family. There were three kids, and two parents.
April, the oldest was 12. She had curly blonde hair, and green eyes, and her favorite jeans had so many holes in them, you’d wonder how they stayed together. She also liked acting and dancing, and videos about dogs.
Juan Carlos, the middle kid, was 8 and ¾ . He had a light layer of fuzz on his head, where other kids would have hair. He’d been very sick, and the medicine to get better made his hair fall out, and it was just starting to grow back. Juan Carlos liked singing and Minecraft, and dinosaurs.
Ralph was 7. He was the youngest. He had dark black hair, and brown eyes, and his skin was the same colour as a chocolate bar. Ralph wanted to be a chef when he grew up. He had a new recipe he was trying out, for cream cheese and olive pancakes, but so far no one in his family would eat them.
Their parents were Mom and Mama. Some families have a mom and a dad. Some have two dads. Lots of kids have two houses, one with their mom, and one with Dad, and they have step-parents.
Families come in different shapes and sizes. Life is interesting, and often complicated.
As April said, when people asked, “Yes, I have a Dad, but he’s more like an uncle. Juan Carlos and Ralph didn’t have moms or dads, until we adopted them. We’re a family.”
The family was getting ready to move to a new town because Mom had a new job. She was a social worker, and had been asked to move to this town that needed someone like her, who was friendly, and good at talking with kids. There had been problems with bullies, and people doing mean things at both schools, and the town was looking for ways to make things better.
Mom’s new job was to be the school liaison. She would get to know the kids at both schools, and help the teaching staff make the schools happier, safer, and more inviting for everyone.
Mom was pretty excited about moving to a new place where she could use her abilities to help the kids and their parents, and the teachers.
Mama was okay with moving, because she had the kind of job she could do on her computer at the kitchen table- she made content for Youtube about video gaming and tattoo art, and people from all over the world watched her videos.
Their kids, April, Juan Carlos and Ralph were not so sure they wanted to move. They liked their old town. They liked their old house. They liked their school. April liked the reading club at the library. Juan Carlos liked the painting classes at the museum, and Ralph liked being part of the litter patrol that kept their town clean.
These kids were not athletes. They did not play soccer or hockey or baseball. And they worried about moving to a town where the bullying was so bad the school needed their mom to help make it better.
Mom and Mama and April, Juan Carlos and Ralph went on a weekend road trip to the new town, to check things out, to try to find a house, and to see what the town had to offer. It was especially important to the family to find a church. They knew it was a good way to meet people.
April was part of the puppets and popcorn team at her old church. They made puppets, and put on shows for the younger kids, and always made sure there was lots of snacks. She didn’t know if the little kids came to see the puppets, or for the koolaid and popcorn. It was probably both.
Juan Carlos liked singing in the junior choir. His favourite Sundays were when the junior choir invited the old people from the Senior choir to sing with them.
Ralph’s favourite thing about church was helping with the refreshment stand at the back of the sanctuary. People could grab a coffee or juice, and a cookie before the service started, and get more to eat and drink when they had visiting time after the church service.
Mom and Mama and April and Juan Carlos and Ralph spent most of Saturday driving around the new town, looking at places to live.
They’d found two different houses they might want to buy. One had a big garden in the backyard. The other had a swimming pool. Guess which one the kids wanted.
They went out for supper at a restaurant with a sign out front that said, “Family-size tables, and free ice cream with every meal.”
They liked that place. April had the vegetarian lasagna. Juan Carlos had chicken nuggets and french fries. Ralph had the french onion soup, which he said was the fourth best he’d ever had. They all had chocolate ice cream for dessert.
Now they were out looking for a church. It was Saturday night, and they thought it would be good to pick a church to visit the next morning.
The first church they drove by was a big scary looking old building. Juan Carlos thought it looked like a haunted castle.
There were no lights on. There was litter and old leaves in the corners of the front steps, and the heavy wooden door looked like it would take three people and a horse to pull open.
They couldn’t get close to the building because there was a tall iron fence all around it, with pointy spikes on top, to make it hard to climb over.
Inside the fence, beside the church building was a great big parking lot, but no cars. It was empty. Ralph said, “That parking lot would be a great place to practice riding my bike. I wonder how you get in.”
April said, “I wonder when this church is open, and what people do here.”
Juan Carlos pointed to the sign on the fence and said, “ What kind of name is that for a church? It says “No Trespassing. No Skateboarding. No Loitering.” On the sign there was a picture of a video camera that gave them the uncomfortable idea they were being watched.
Mama said, “We should keep looking.”
The family got back in the van and drove a few blocks, and found another church. The first thing April noticed was the big rainbow flag flapping over the front door. She liked rainbows. They made her feel happy, and welcome.
Juan Carlos said, “ We should look at the sign, and see what goes on here.”
Mama drove the van into the parking lot. The whole family got out. Before they walked over to read the big sign, Ralph pointed to a small shed next to the church and said, “Look, they have a food pantry. It says take what you need, share if you can. I like that.”
When they got to the sign out front, they realized it was actually a collection of signs. It looked like lots of different groups used the building.
Juan Carlos said, “Mama, what’s Alanon? What’s AA?”
Mama said, “Those are groups for people who need to come and talk about some hard problems.”
Juan Carlos looked all serious for a second, then said, “That’s good.”
April said, “Look, they have cubs, and scouts, and Karate. They have a dance studio! They have cooking classes.”
Ralph said, “That one says “after school arts and crafts. That’s cool.”
Mom said, “I like that sign.”
April said, “Which one, Mom?”
Mom pointed and said, “Where it says, God wants us to love each other. We’re working on it. Want to help?”
The family piled back in the van, and Mama drove them back to the motel where they were staying that night. As they drove, they talked about which of the two churches they might go to the next morning.
I know which one I would pick.