As lunch dishes are cleared and I turn my attention to the morning’s unfinished tasks, my cell phone rings. A familiar voice on the other end informs me that my granddaughter, Emma, is ill. I am told that while my kindergarten scholar is too upset for an accurate measurement of her temperature, the elementary school secretary is confident she should not return to class and needs to be picked up as soon as possible. With her mother and two preschool siblings in tow, I reluctantly embark on the thirty-minute drive to the distant elementary campus. While I dearly love my granddaughter and harbor no resentment for investing more than an hour of my day to comfort her and take her home, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the work undone I had left behind. Progress had been lost and I began to mull over where precious time could be recovered.
Parking parallel along the sidewalk in front of the school, I put on my grandpa demeanor and scaled the steps to the front entrance of the building. My daughter remained in our gas-guzzling van with the other children who were now napping peacefully. I entered the main office where I was pleasantly greeted by personnel I had come to know during these first few weeks of the new school year. I caught a glimpse of a little girl in the adjacent nurse’s office whose puffy eyes and fearful cries clearly conveyed unhappiness. Unable to see my granddaughter at that point, I called out to her, announcing my arrival and readiness to take her home. No response brought a puzzled look to the several adults in the office, including myself. Assuming she may not have heard me over the cries of the other child, I called her name again. Expecting an immediate response by doing so, I assured the child I could not yet see that her mother was in the van and encouraged her to come. To my surprise the unidentified child, who appeared to be near my granddaughter’s age screamed “No” and cried even louder. A staff member walked into the nurse’s office, calling my granddaughter by name, to escort her out of the nearby room. Further confused, I realized the child being addressed by my kindergartener’s name and escorted out of the nurse’s office was the same unidentified little girl whose refrain of unhappiness had been a backdrop for my entire visit. Hearing the adult who was walking with her address her once more as Emma, I stated emphatically, but softly for fear of further upsetting the innocent one who stood before me, “that’s not my Emma.”
After a brief, animated conversation, the confused adults in that office came to the ironic conclusion that the wrong grandparent had been called for one of the several Emma’s who blessed the three kindergarten classes of that school. That other Emma is probably still wondering about the identity of that strange man who tried to take her home (I hope she has stopped crying by now). Meanwhile, the incident is humorous in retrospect, except of course for that little girl. In the end, the disconcerting but otherwise innocent mistake made by caring school personnel was nothing more than a case of mistaken identity.
As parents and grandparents, we know our own. In seconds we can spot them in a large crowd. After all, it’s in our job description, we do it well, and we rarely experience even a momentary lapse of visual acuity, an incident of mistaken identity. We know they will make mistakes, may even on occasion disappoint us, but we love them unconditionally and will always be there for them in their times of need. Meanwhile, we all share a loving Father who likewise knows His own. As described in John’s Gospel, “. . . to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV). As His children, we have the assurance that we will never be mistaken for someone else. He allows us to make our human mistakes, those actions and words that disappoint or fall short of His expectations, yet His love is unconditional and His forgiveness without bounds. For the knowledge of these things, we should give thanks to the One who knows us as His children!
Have you ever mistaken another child for one of your own in a public setting? Describe the confusion and embarrassment that followed and how the mistake was corrected. Have you ever punished a child for inappropriate behavior only to find that you were mistaken in identifying the offender and punished the wrong child? Who was hurt worse as a result of your mistake–you or the innocent child? Have you ever been the victim of mistaken identity? What was the impact and the resolution of your victimization?