“A Prayer for a Child,” June 13, 2017

We were sitting in his oak tree, Henry and I, dreaming about birds and clouds and life. Henry is my grandson. He is 5. I am older than he is. I quit tree climbing a long time ago, but picked it up again at Henry’s urging. It’s amazing what we’ll do if it’s important to a child.

Trees are very important to Henry. Animals, too. And Legos.  I’ll spare you the details of how we got up there, let alone, how we’d get down. I straddled a limb and leaned back on the trunk. Henry sat in my lap, his head on my chest. I kept wishing we had a safety net.

“Nana?” Henry said suddenly, “if something happened to my mom and dad, would you and Papa Mark be my parents?”

My jaw nearly dropped to the ground. I swallowed hard and said, “Do you worry about that?”

“Sometimes,” he said.

I pulled him closer, held him tighter.

“Well,” I said softly into his ear to be sure he heard me, “your parents are young and healthy and strong. You don’t need to worry about them.”

“I know,” he said, nodding.

Then I added, “If you ever needed us, of course Papa Mark and I would want to be your parents. Lots of people would.”

“Really?” he said. “Like who?”

“Well, like, uh, Uncle Josh.”

He whirled to face me, nearly knocking us both off the limb.

“Uncle Josh would want to be my parent?” he said, bug-eyed.

“You bet,” I said.

“And Uncle Nate?”

“Sure.”

“And Auntie Jess?”

I laughed. Clearly, Papa Mark and I were no longer top choice.

“Of course,” I said. “Lots of people love you.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m lucky.”

“So how much do I love you?”

He grinned and shouted the answer I’d taught him: “All!”

“All” is as much as anyone can possibly love someone. And with that we went back to dreaming.

Later, I’d tell his mom about our talk so she could reassure him, too. Children worry. They need reassuring. I remember as a child fearing something could happen to my mother. It helped to have a safety net: My dad. My grandmothers. My aunts. Sometimes I had to fall into that net. It always caught me. And I always slept better just knowing it was there.

I often think of all the children I have known. Not just my own. I’ve been a substitute teacher; Young Life volunteer; youth group leader; Sunday school teacher; Little League scorer; and in the longest summer of my life, I ran a daycare. I’ve known my share of kids.

My late husband was a high school teacher and a coach. At times, he had students or players who, for whatever reason, needed a place to stay.

Sometimes they stayed with us. Most stayed a short time, though two stayed for a year.

I never set out to take in strays. But when they showed up at my door, I recalled how it felt to need a safety net, and I could not turn them away.

I didn’t pretend to be their mother. But I wanted them to feel at home in our home, to know they were welcome and loved. What else is a home for?

Some were easier to love than others. Most of us are the least lovable when we need love most.

I was no Mother Teresa. I did what I could, fed them, listened to them, pulled for them. They had to share with my kids a TV, a bathroom and chicken pox.

In the end, if anyone was helped, it was me. It’s a gift, getting to repay a little of the abundance life gives us.

I still hear from a few of those kids. Some are doing well. Others struggle. I’ll always wish I could’ve given them more.

So I pray for them the same prayer I pray for my children, grandchildren and all children:

May they always have a safe place to call home, and a safety net to help them sleep; time to dream and the courage to follow those dreams; a chance to repay some of life’s abundance.

And may they always have someone who loves them “all.”

Comments

  1. Ward Becker says:

    Dear Sharon,
    I greatly enjoyed “A Prayer for a Child”. It was quite touching. When I was an intern 40 years ago, I cared for a seven year old girl with leukemia who changed my life and career. While I was presenting her case to the hematologist, I remarked that I had been emotionally shaken by her condition and was having great difficulty reconciling my existing views of life’s meaning and purpose with this innocent little girl’s suffering. He gently told me that, while my emotional feelings and philosophical views were important and should be given the proper attention throughout my medical career, our roles as physicians required that our primary responsibilities were to provide the best medical care possible to our patient.
    I did continue my philosophical pursuits and I have come to believe that pain and suffering will always be a part of life, that life’s meaning and purpose is to live it, and that the best way to live life is with awe, exuberance, wonder, and a commitment to helping other people because when we help others we honor those who have helped us.
    For me, the practice of medicine contains great inherent beauty and being a physician affords me daily opportunities to experience awe, to be exuberant, to wonder, to help other people, and to honor a little girl and a wise physician who helped me. I am indeed fortunate.

  2. Cynthia G says:

    Lovely. Thank you for this.

  3. Susan Robertson says:

    Thank you Sharon. Sharing with my niece, who is fostering to adopt.

  4. Heather Ray Harrell says:

    Your stories always touch my heart. I love hearing about your family! Your brother is an inspiration and I’m cheering for him and Clemson, because of him. Bless you Sharon every day.. MUCH Love from Arkansas!!!!

  5. Peggy Davis says:

    Thank you for another beautiful article Sharon.
    Love,
    Peggy Davis

  6. Jody Burke says:

    Thank you Sharon you are my light.

  7. Jody Burke says:

    I live in Ontario Oregon, my husband is incarcerated at the local prison here. It is hard, he returns home to me in 2020 we have some problems going on. It is hard to love someone ALL as you put it, Sharon, but can I tell youI prayed to God this morning for a sign, something to keep me believing, keep me in faith of mankind. I used to live in Klamath Falls and every week religiously buy the Wed. paper there, as you write a column in it. That would get me through to the next week. Altho we have a rough time at times, someone always has it worst. Thank You Sharon for this story and all the ones you share, this was my Light today to keeping the faith. God Bless and thankyou ALL

  8. Beth Heeren says:

    You may not be a Mother Theresa, but you were Mother Sharon to many…and now you get to be Nana Sharon! What a blessing!

  9. Margie Poe says:

    You never fail at words to best express the feeling–whatever it may be!

  10. Linda says:

    As always a great read and so very true. There are so many children today that don’t have a safety net.

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