“Hope, in the Autumn of Life,” column for Oct. 9, 2012

It was a part of Las Vegas seldom seen by tourists who prefer to spend their time and money in the neon glow of the Strip. We were on our way out of town for an overnight on Mount Charleston, an 11,000-foot peak an hour’s drive from Vegas, that serves as a ski resort in winter, and in other seasons, a respite from the desert inferno.
For me, it was a chance to see a little fall color _ not like the autumns I knew as a child in the mountains of North Carolina, but better than no color at all.
I was homesick for fall. My husband knew it. When I said, “Let’s go,” he said, “Yes, let’s.”
You have to like the kind of man who says that.
When a missed exit on the freeway put us, as life often will, on a slightly different path, we found ourselves sitting at a traffic light trying to avoid making eye contact with people who wanted to sell us things we didn’t want to buy.
That’s when I spotted her _ a skinny little girl about 3 or 4 years old. Her hair was tightly braided in swirly rows, pinned to her scalp with hot pink barrettes. She wore a short ruffly dress with leggings and sandals, and a smile that would outshine all the neon on the Strip. Even at a distance, I could see the  light that danced in her eyes.
She seemed well-cared for and happy, skipping across the street holding the hand of a woman who struck me, as my grandmother would say, like somebody who knew how to raise a child right.
That’s all I can tell you. I know nothing, really, about that child. But something about her _ how she seemed to see everything at once _ reminded me of another child from a lifetime ago.
She grew up in the country, not the city, crossing cow pastures, not crowded streets.
Her family didn’t have a lot, but they had enough, usually, to keep cornbread on the table, a tin roof over her head and hand-me-down shoes on her feet.
At times she wished for things other children took for granted _  lunch money or Christmas presents or parents who didn’t fight. But mostly, she felt lucky.
She had teachers who made her feel smart. Sunday school teachers who made her feel loved. Grandparents who made her think she could hang the moon and all its stars. And a small, but caring community of people who believed in her, cheered for her, opened their hearts and their homes to her, helped her grow up and get a scholarship to go off to college, and always prayed for her best.
Children don’t need much. But they need to know they matter.
Later that evening, I sat on a balcony at Mount Charleston, with aspen leaves glittering like gold coins in the distance and the colors of sunset spilling over the desert, and thought about the little girl I had seen on the street.
I hope she has everything she needs _ someone to make her feel smart and loved and capable of anything, even the impossible.
Especially the impossible.
I hope her parents are happy, together or apart, and make choices based on her best.
I hope she has a good, reliable dog. A sister to look out for her. A brother to read to. And grandparents who swear she hangs the moon and all its stars.
I hope the women in her life stick by her, the men say “yes, let’s” and her car always starts.
I hope she goes to college, lands a job she loves and keeps it for as long as she wants.
I hope she marries well, raises her children right and gets to spoil her grandchildren.
I hope she knows she matters.
And in the autumn of her life, if she ever forgets, I hope she will see a child on the street and remember how lucky, how very blessed she has been.


  1. This is beautifully written. I truly enjoyed it. Thank you!

  2. girlllllll you rock, loved your article…. mde my day just what i needed today, a reminder.

  3. Every child needs someone to believe in them. So glad you had so many, when so many have none.

  4. I’m thankful that I live in Piedmont North Carolina where the Blue Ridge Mountains are a little over an hour away. I will take a trip for you.

    You frequently touch me and today was no exception. We too often forget how much we have to be thankful for.

  5. Vickie Garrison says

    Thank you for the reminder in the autumn of my own life, how very blessed I have been.

  6. I just love reading your column! I was especially touched by today’s article, Children must know they matter. I grew up in the country, with not many material things. We always had enough to eat and more than anything else, we knew mom and dad loved us. I could go on and on about how this article touched me, but I just wanted you to know how much I look forward to Monday’s to read your column. Take care.

  7. Imagine opening the Sunday paper and reading something so beautiful it makes you cry. Thank you for this column!

  8. RobynFrance says

    Hi Sharon–honestly had a tear or two in my eye when I finished reading it this morning. You captured what life is all about–and isn’t it wonderful to have a husband who knows the right thing to do–it means so much. Thank you as always–I would never forgive the WS Journal if they stopped carrying your column.

  9. Another beauty, Sharon. Just when I think you can’t write any better, you do. What a gift you have, and are to us all.



  10. Mike Haymore says

    same goes for little boys too….

  11. Deborah Jones says

    Amen! We are so blessed!

    The leaves are supposed to be at peak this weekend in Bristol. Do you think he would say “yes, let’s” to a trip east?

  12. Amen, sister!

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