How a Lost Stuffed Animal Taught Me to Love Well

We shuffled forward, inch by inch, until we were at the front of the line. A short man in a black suit jacket called us to his register. While the boys played under and around the counter, the man issued us our hotel keys. I took in my surroundings, marveling at the ornate lobby in the Venetian. I’d been to Las Vegas a few times before, but never stayed anywhere as nice as this. We had booked a suite with the last of our credit card miles, and I couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on it, anticipating sinking into a soft bed after a long day’s travel.

My six year old, William, tapped my elbow while the man behind the desk was explaining how to find the pool. “I can’t find Jelly”, he whispered in a panic. “He’s gone!” He had carried three stuffed animals up from the parking garage. He showed me two of them, and indeed, little palm-sized Jelly (a rainbow colored Beanie Baby leopard) was missing. I scanned the area where we had waited in line, but didn’t see it. I looked on the floor around where we were standing. No luck.

“Sorry buddy! I don’t see him anywhere.” His face fell and he began to lament that he had just been playing with it.

My husband pocketed the hotel keys and led us to the side. “Ready to go to our hotel room?” he asked brightly. “But I lost Jelly!” William protested. I shifted the weight of my backpack, and sighed as he explained the situation to his dad. He literally had 42 other stuffed animals at home. I felt sorry for him, but these backpack straps were digging into my shoulders, and it had already been a long day of travel.

“Well that’s terrible! Let’s retrace our steps and see if we can find it,” Max said to our son.

The Venetian hotel is massive and it had taken us a long while to get from the parking garage to the front lobby. My heart sunk just thinking of walking all the way back, loaded down with our stuff. I grabbed my younger son’s hand as we wound our way through the crowds, past the slot machines, down the escalators, down the hall of shops, and into the elevator. We scanned all the floors, all the way back to our car. We checked in his car seat, and on the crumb-filled floor of the car.

No Jelly.

We made the return trip, all the way back to the front lobby, without finding his stuffed animal. Max got down at William’s eye level. “Sorry buddy! We looked everywhere and it was gone! I don’t know what happened to it! Do you think you’ll be okay with just the two stuffed animals tonight?” I could tell William was disappointed, but he nodded bravely. By the time we got to the 24th floor to see our room, the incident was almost forgotten. The boys busied themselves by bouncing on the beds and using the remote control to open and close the blinds.

I believe that the reason we were able to move past this disappointment was because my husband took the time to treat it seriously. He didn’t just listen to William and make sympathetic noises (like I did!), he showed that he cared for him by treating his feelings like they were important. He was willing to be inconvenienced in order to make William feel better.

Had we not retraced our steps to actively look for the lost stuffed animal, the situation may well have spiraled into whining, pouting, and brooding. I would have felt resentful that he was ruining our day because he just couldn’t get over it.

I’m really thankful that I have a spouse who reminds me what it means to love well:

It’s not just in what we say, it’s in what we do.

Our actions communicate louder than our words. Whatever we want our kids to know, we need to model with our behavior, even if it’s inconvenient. Our kids may not remember the exact words we said, but they will remember how we made them feel!

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I'm a Special Education teacher turned ministry leader. I empower moms to live out their Kingdom calling by finding missional moments right where they are.

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