Bella the Missionary

Bella the Missionary

This afternoon Bella and I were sitting outside. I was chatting on the phone with my mom and Bella announced that she was bored. She didn’t want to watch anymore football. I suggested a few ideas and she decided she wanted to do some art.

Immediately she had a plan: “I want you to cut out some flowers and then I can glue them on a paper and paint them.” It was a very specific plan, especially considering we’ve never done that exact project before. It took me a minute to understand what she wanted. I ended my phone conversation and went inside to help with the project.

Bella found some orange and black construction paper and asked me to cut out some flowers from it. She and Sophie glued the flowers onto some brown and green papers. The result was really quite striking. Bella decided against the paint and instead colored each flower carefully with red and blue crayons.

When she was halfway through she suddenly declared: “I want to take the flowers to our neighbor.” Recently she made a solo expedition across the street (with Dom’s approval and supervision) to say hello to our elderly neighbor. I guess this was the natural next step in her bold move to be neighborly. We have decided she’s now allowed to cross the street by herself with supervision and I think she’s finding excuses to exercise her new freedom.

When the she had finished her paper Bella sprang up and made for the front door, “I’m going to take this to our neighbor.” I went along to supervise the crossing of the street. Bella didn’t need any help, though. She went directly across to the house, up to the door, and only hesitated when it came to what to do next. I pointed at the doorbell and told her to push it. Sophie by this time had dashed out and joined us. I held her hand across the street.

Our neighbor came to the door with a bit or a surprised look and the girls handed over their bright creations. I explained that it was their own idea and she was very, very touched. She asked the girls their names and thanked them warmly and they ran back across the street, Bella holding Sophie’s hand. I lingered at my post on the sidewalk to chat a bit longer. She asked Ben’s name, he was lurking in our yard watching the proceedings from a safe distance. She commented on that he was “all boy” and I agreed.

I told her that the pictures were the girls’ own idea. Then our neighbor, who has never been excessively friendly, though we’ve talked a few times, continued to express her appreciation. She said the pictures gave her goosebumps. As you know, she said, we’ve had some hard times recently (Yes, we’ve noticed all the visits from the local fire department and ambulance rides for both him and her.) And then she said that she’d just come home today. She’s got a blood clot in her leg. She was almost in tears as she looked down at the pictures in her hands and tried to find words for how much they meant.

Oh I have never been such a proud mother as I was then. I said goodbye, I should have said more. I should have said we’d be praying for her. But I am so shy I can never find the right words. I was afraid, I guess.

I went back into our house and told Dom how it all went down. We agreed that St Therese had been working powerfully in our little Bella.

The girls went back to work and finished a second picture each. We went back out to deliver them. We tried to knock next door but the little lady who lives there didn’t answer. So we went to the next house on the other side of her. The old man who lives there answered the door and the girls clammed up, a little startled to find a masculine presence. I explained their presents and he was delighted. He said they would get a place on the fridge. He wondered why he’d been selected and I just shrugged. Who knows why they do what they do? His wife joined him in the door and she oohed too. They said thanks again and I prompted the girls to say “you’re welcome” as they dashed back down the sidewalk toward home, bare feet flashing under bright flowered dresses.

“You girls have done a good deed,” I told them. “St Therese would be very pleased.”

I wish I’d snapped some photos of their projects, but they went so fast. Still, I don’t think I’ll soon forget our neighbors’ faces, and that is an even more precious picture.

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  • UGH! I’m so sorry about being pulled over and the hives. What a night!

    God bless Anthony and Bella! Any words of wisdom for getting a 5 year old to generous and helpful and I am all ears!!!

    We do a Mommy/Eldest Daughter Reading time in the afternoon too. Cecilia loves and it Felicity goes and plays on her own. It has been a blessing I had not anticipated.

  • Katherine, My mother-in-law gave Bella a book called Small Acts of Kindness<img src=“; width=“1” height=“1” border=“0” alt=”” style=“border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />, which really seemed to inspire Bella to acts of generosity. I didn’t talk about the book much or try to make an object lesson of it. I just read it with her and answered her questions and pointed out how one person’s act of generosity inspired another person to do the same.

    Also reading the Saint Therese and the Roses<img src=“; width=“1” height=“1” border=“0” alt=”” style=“border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” /> seems to have born fruit. Again, I didn’t try to beat her over the head with the point but just let Therese’s example stand on its own.

    Other than that, I praise acts of generosity and helpfulness whenever I see them. Anytime they do something helpful, even if I asked them to do it, I thank them for their helpfulness and generosity.

    I do think it is important to acknowledge all of those acts, even if they only did it because they were asked. I’ve noticed that after I’ve praised them they are more likely to seek out opportunities of doing the same services voluntarily. And I try to praise the intention and not the result. When Bella tries to help Ben and he doesn’t actually want help, I still praise her helpfulness and then explain how she might be more discerning of whether he wants to be helped in the future.

    Also, for Lent this year we had a “sacrifice jar”. Anytime the girls or Ben did something helpful or generous, shared or gave in during a quarrel, they got to put a bean in the jar and I replaced the beans with candy on Easter. I wasn’t always consistent with it, but it still bore fruit. They started to actively look for opportunities to serve.

    I think I’m going to try the Advent activity where they get to put bits of “straw” in the manger for Baby Jesus whenever they make a sacrifice or an act of generosity.

    I’ve also seen where people make “sacrifice beads” like St Therese’s to count the sacrifices they make every day for Baby Jesus. That would be a great activity after reading the Therese book because they are mentioned in the book.


  • Hi Melanie,
      Regarding the hives…our first son had a PB allergy and broke out in hives after his third time eating it.  Then we got him tested.  He was only 12 months. 

    Our doctor said that although most docs say kids can try PB at the age of one, he suggested two years old.  Also, babies are not supposed to have cow’s milk until one also, so maybe you are giving him those foods too soon?  With all our children, they only ate fruits, veggies, grains and meats once they could eat solids.  No milk, chocolate, nuts, or strawberries until age one and no honey until age two.  I’m not sure what your doctor is telling you or what you did with your other children, but milk and PB are such common allergy inducing foods that I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what is causing his earaches and hives.  Poor kiddo! 

    Three of my children also had milk sensitivity and all got ear tubes due to the number of infections they had.  It was wonderful after they got the tubes…no more infections or antibiotics! 

    Good luck diagnosing the problems.

  • Colleen, I think maybe you got confused between Ben and Anthony. Anthony isn’t really eating solid foods yet. A few very safe non-allergenic finger foods and that’s it. He’s primarily breastfed still precisely because of allergy concerns.

    Ben is two and didn’t have milk, PB, or any of the allergenic foods until after he was one because I was worried about allergic reactions after Sophie had a wheat sensitivity that showed up when she was about 7 months old and that lasted until well after her first birthday. 

    It is possible Ben has an undiagnosed milk sensitivity, however. He drinks about 3 or 4 glasses of milk a day but eats very daintily. If the milk is upsetting his stomach, it could cause his picky eating. But if it hasn’t caused hives till now, I’m doubting it’s the culprit.

  • Melanie,
      I’m so sorry!!  In my post baby brain state, I totally got your boys confused.  I was thinking you knew better than to feed a 7 month old PB and milk smile 

    The only other thing I can think of is what happened to my sister-in-law’s kids.  They used to drink milk and not eat too, and their Dr. said that she should take away the milk (except for one cup at night) so they would be hungry for food.  Gosh, it’s so hard to know.  Good luck!

  • Colleen, No worries. I understand. Also, we talked to the pediatrician and she actually said the same: reduce his milk intake.

    Eileen, Dom said the weather was gorgeous too. Though he wasn’t out in it much.

    I’m sorry to hear about your niece. Sad. In general I’d probably say a family member probably knows how you feel. As her godmother, however, perhaps you do have a stronger duty to say something? I’d pray on it and perhaps talk it over with a priest you trust. I’ll pray for her.

  • Your photos of your son Anthony are precious (as are all your children).

    When you said your husband was in KC, it is coincidental as I, too, was there this weekend.  But mine for a family wedding … and, unfortunately, the only good thing to say was the weather was beautiful.  My niece, raised in a Catholic home, did not have a Catholic wedding (married in a park with a “minister” who never spoke of God).  Also, sadly, I was not strong enough to say “no” to attending as I felt I would alienate my sister.  But, I am hopeful that with a lot of prayer (as her godmother) things will change … also, I am getting different responses from family members on whether I should write her a note in the future about her decision not to remain Catholic.  Any thoughts?