The Easter Squirrel

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Easter Bunny now let me tell you about the Easter Squirrel!

Like many residential treatment centers, Hillsides provides its residents with a comprehensive array of services that include a chaplaincy program for those who may choose to participate in it. Although we are an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, there is no sectarian agenda reflected in the care that we offer. The chaplaincy program has proven to be an important service providing comfort and support to children and families who value it.

On Good Friday last week, our great chaplain, the Rev. Pat Hendrickson, offered to lead a special devotion of the Stations of the Cross designed for children. A small group of residents and their staff chose to join me and our chaplain for this devotion. We gathered on the playing field at Hillsides and  walked over to the Church of the Angels where we started in the church and walked the grounds, stopping 14 times to prayerfully recall that first good Friday. At each, “station,” a meditation and prayer was offered and I was really edified by the attention and reverence of the residents.  

However, the mood changed when we got to the twelfth station, “Jesus dies on the cross.” As we were completing the prayer, a scrawny, emaciated squirrel appeared at our feet. We acknowledged the tiny creature, but continued on to the last two “stations.” At the end of the devotion, we realized that the little squirrel was now following us, seemingly seeking our attention and care. A few of the residents cautiously crouched down on the ground to examine the little critter. It didn’t take long before they began to try to figure out why this cute little squirrel was clinging to our every move.

Sure enough the baby squirrel was the sole survivor of a fallen nest and thanks to the compassion of our residents, the resourcefulness of the Rev. Pat and the assistance of the SCPA, our little friend was saved and lived to see a glorious Easter.

It is moments like these that continue to amaze and inspire me. There they were, children who have experienced hardships and challenges through no fault of their own, reaching out to assure the safety and well-being of this stranded squirrel. Their selflessness and desire to help demonstrates their capacity to be resilient, to move beyond trauma, and enjoy a full life.

If Easter is indeed the story of new life that defies tragedy, then all those we serve are great witnesses to hope. Long live the Easter Squirrel!

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