Unconditional Affection by Mary Margaret Schroeder

“It’s Margaret! She right here! She come home!” Excited squeals, jumps in the air, a smile ear to ear: all classic characteristics of a Blue greeting (which, despite the name, is far from a somber interaction). After six weeks away at college, I am back home in New Jersey, surprising Blue in the school pick-up line. Although six weeks may sound relatively short, it felt like a lifetime after spending nearly every day at Blue’s side during my spring semester at home—a spring semester seemingly doomed by the effects of the pandemic, redeemed by the joy of Blue, a five-year-old with 17q12 microduplication syndrome for whom I have been a nanny.

My favorite memories from being home during my first year in college consist of long walks pushing a stroller and carrying a box fan, singing the clean-up song until my throat was sore, and cuddling on the couch while watching Paw Patrol. Definitely different than what I had in mind when daydreaming about college as a high schooler, but I wouldn’t change it for anything, because Blue showed me God’s love clearer than I had ever seen it before. 

Blue’s genetic difference gives him a unique ability to love fully without bias, judgement, or selfishness. Walking down the street as we bring the fan (Blue’s favorite “toy”) to “ma house,” or to watch the trains leave the station, it is not uncommon for Blue to yell “HI!!” at any or all passersby. When the shout of zeal reaches their ears, they can’t help but allow some of that happiness into their hearts and reflect his smile. I was blessed enough to become one of the people Blue “loves on,” an honor that continues to mirror God’s presence in my life.

My heart broke into a million pieces the day I left for college this fall and had to say goodbye to Blue. Even though I was thrilled to see my friends and attend in-person classes, I knew very well that I was leaving a big part of my heart in New Jersey. The only consoling aspect of the day was Blue telling me he understood what was happening: “Margaret go to school, but Margaret come back,” whispered through teary eyes. Blue knew other things were calling me, but I would be back. “Margaret always comes back.”

Several FaceTime calls, cards, and “I miss you’s” later, here I am, about to pick up Blue from school. I’m shocked the surprise hasn’t been spoiled, because Blue listens to every word spoken around him. I look up and see him walk out of the building with his aide, and I can see the smile forming from underneath his mask. That’s when he exclaims with such genuine joy: “It’s Margaret! She right here! She came home!” Our tight embrace says more than words ever could. My smile matches Blue’s, and I inhale immense gratitude. In this moment of such profound love, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s unconditional affection for each of us. 

No matter how far we stray from God’s gaze, he is waiting for us with wide open arms just like Blue. Whether we are gone for 10 seconds or 10 years, he is jumping up and down with shouts of joy when we turn back to him. God is still there when we leave; he knows the ways we are being pulled, and he knows we will come back. 

If you are experiencing desolation right now, no matter where you may find yourself, take heart, friend, knowing that God is waiting for you. He welcomes you exactly as you are—not as you were or as you could be or as someone else is. His love transcends every label and wound and wall around your heart. Go to your Father, let him embrace you and delight in you, his beloved child. 

It’s you. You are right here. You came home.

Mary Margaret Schroeder is a student at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a co-leader of the Undergraduate Council at Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale.

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