In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the young cast of a church nativity play is told that there are "no small parts, only small actors". As a kid, I was with the narrator in thinking that this was the most ridiculous statement ever made. You can certainly have a nativity play without a baby angel, but you can't have one without someone to play Mary.
But now, as an adult, I am finally beginning to understand what this statement means. Of course there are parts that are more important, and more essential to the whole, but every single part is important in its own way. And sometimes it is the smallest part that ends up being the most important.
I have seen this firsthand as my son reached nursery age. Being the stubborn, velcro-child he is, he was not pleased with the idea of his mom and dad trying to leave him with friends, toys, snacks and activities so they could go to Sunday School. This resulted in several extremely stressful months of trying to help him adjust to nursery class. Knowing his stubborn personality as I do, I just knew that he needed to be allowed to cry it out for a few weeks in order to adjust, which was an impossibility at the time.
So when we moved to NYC, I prayed and prayed that Michael would have a nursery leader who would be willing to help him by letting him have a few weeks of tears. When we arrived it was with great trepidation that we left him for his first nursery class. I explained the situation and asked them to keep him as long as they could handle it. They seemed willing to try it out, and I left, a bundle of nerves, my head jerking to check the classroom door every time it opened, just sure it would be a screaming Michael.
The first Sunday he made it one hour. The second week he stayed the whole two hours in nursery. Within a month he was only crying when we left him, and occasionally for a few minutes here and there when something would distress him. Within two months he was going to nursery without any tears at all. And yesterday he actually asked, "Nursery? Play?" toward the end of sacrament meeting, excited about going to play with toys.
I swear I could hear a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
His teachers have been so helpful, and so willing to see his progress that each week they noted his improvement and made sure to tell me how much better he was doing. Even amidst the tear-filled weeks they seemed excited to see him, put their arms around him and told him how happy they were to have him in nursery, and made sure to let us know he was doing great and would be settled in in no time.
These nursery leaders may feel like they have small callings and that their job is nothing more than babysitting, but I know better. These women are angels on earth who showed me that my son has a loving Heavenly Father who cares about him, and cares about me.
I used to leave church every week in tears, at a loss as to what to do. Attending my Sunday meetings became very stressful for me during those few months. But now I practically skip down the block on the way home as my son tells me he had "fun" in nursery class. Words can't express how much gratitude I feel toward these women, and toward my Father in Heaven for answering my prayers.
It just goes to show that there are no small callings - especially not callings to be in charge of baby angels.