It’s a word that has never been sent my way.  Jody and I didn’t have any children.  That’s one of only two regrets I have in life:  Her early death at 54 is the other.

When I’m out there in the world, I often hear a kid call the man beside him or her “Dad”, and a little bit of me winces.  Oh, to sit on the couch with my son or daughter, watching TV, eating popcorn and chatting about the events of the day.  But it’s not to be (this time around anyway).

I love volunteering in the Grade 5/6 class and sometimes imagine that I’m dad (or more accurately grandpa).  I’ve had many fine conversations with kids, and I like to think that I’ve made an impact on many of them, but at the end of the day they go to their homes and I go to mine.  And that’s okay.  At least we get to talk some on the days when I show up at their school.

Yesterday, the class was on a field trip to a conservation area – a well-treed park surrounded by farmland.  We had fun, especially the geocaching experience, where we used our handheld GPS units to find spots in the woods where tiny treasures were hidden in Tupperware containers.  Our group found one about six feet above the ground in the crotch of a tree.

When it was time to get on the bus for the return trip to school, a Grade 5 kid asked me to sit with her.  I’ll call her Sarah.  We talked about the day we spent exploring both technology and nature.  We talked about the training I’m doing to get ready for my bicycle ride across Canada this summer.  Her assessment of the hours I spend on the elliptical at the gym?  “Crazy!”  Well, maybe I am, but I’m going to be fit enough to traverse my country, starting in June.

Sarah is a hockey player.  This winter, I’ve gone to a few games featuring kids from school, but I’d never seen her team play.  “Next year, I’ll come to a game of yours.”  She smiled.

Apparently, Jayne, the teacher, plays a game with the kids just before lunch every Friday.  Sarah asked me if I’d come to volunteer some Friday morning so I could play too.  I said yes, and was very pleased that she invited me.

Getting off the bus, Sarah wanted to know which car was mine.  “That red one over there – Scarlet.”  She seemed amused that I named my cars.  For me, it’s always felt like a natural thing to do.

These kids spend some time with me and then next year they’ll be off on new adventures.  Elementary school turns into high school turns into whatever’s next.  They’re building their lives, step by step.  Even though my time with them will be brief, I’m happy that I get to have moments like a simple bus ride back to school.

On last fall’s meditation retreat, one of the teachers said “When you’re in the presence of one of life’s wholesome moments … Don’t miss it!”  So true.  May we all be awake to the people who come our way, whether they’re 10 or 82.