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Chickenpox Taught Me About Positive Thinking

A sick child, bad weather… How Kathryn Slattery found hope in the most unlikely place.

Find the faith to determine what God created you to do

Crisp air, cloudless blue sky. It was a glorious spring day in New York City, and for the children and me, our first outing in more than a week since a tiny pink spot behind Katy’s ear marked the arrival of a most unwelcome visitor: chickenpox.

Nearing noon, the park was empty, save for a flock of hungry pigeons at the black iron gate. How busy those birds are! Heads down, they picked, pecked and scraped at the remains of someone’s bagel.   

Thank the Lord, little Katy’s finally on the mend, I thought. All that’s left of her bout with “the pox” is a smattering of spots on her tummy and back. 

I watched as she swung her limber five-year-old body up, over, and around the highest bar on the rainbow-shaped jungle gym. Her two-year-old brother clambered like a little chimp up the weather beaten apparatus.

The happy moment was suddenly darkened by a worrisome cloud of a thought. True, Katy’s doing fine. But what about Brinck? 

According to the pediatrician, three more weeks will have to pass before we will find out whether he, too, is going to get the pox. Three long weeks during which, because he is potentially contagious, I will have to do my best to keep him away from other children. Poor little guy. More to the point, poor me!

All too soon our pleasant outing will be over, and I winced at the thought of returning to our cramped, cluttered apartment. Why, when we’re housebound, does television have nothing to offer? I thought. And why do the craft projects in all those kids books require stuff that no one has on hand?

At the height of her illness, Katy begged to accompany me down the hall when I emptied the trash. Not wanting to risk exposing our neighbors to the pox, we planned our 20-yard trek to the incinerator chute like that old prison movie, The Great Escape. Bad idea.

“Stay back!” I cried, as the nice young mother in Apartment 503 came wheeling around the corner with her newborn baby girl. “Chickenpox!” I watched with dismay as the mother’s expression shifted from open-faced friendliness to utter horror. 

Will that new baby get the pox? Poor little baby. Poor new mother. Poor Katy. More to the point, poor me! Sometimes, God, being a mom is not much fun…

At the park, I tossed sandwich crust toward the cluster of hungry pigeons that were milling around my feet. As if a single organism, the birds flocked toward the crust, stabbing at it with their beaks. When it was gone, they continued to peck-peck-peck at the pavement. Funny how it never occurs to them to look up, where less than two feet up Katy’s and Brinck’s lunch sits. And suddenly, unexpectedly, I’m seized by the most curious thought…

How like those old pigeons I am! So focused am I on the worrisome, the tedious, the tiresome, frustrating, and inconvenient aspects of motherhood that I fail to see the larger reality that surrounds me. How can I dwell on cotton balls and calamine lotion, when all around me—in the clear sweet air, the cloudless sky, the buds bursting on the trees, the laughter of my children—the city sings of spring, and hope, and healing, and new beginnings?

Suddenly the children are at the bench, their noisy arrival sending the pigeons up and away in a flutter of sooty wings. Soon enough, the pox will pass. Soon enough my children will be well. Soon enough.  

Thank You, Father, for all Your many blessings! Help me to keep my eyes looking ever-upward so that I can see the feast of hope and healing, love and joy, that You spread out for me every day.  

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