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Sharon Randall: A prayer for a child

By Sharon Randall

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. “I 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 day care.
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 chickenpox.

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 someone who loves them “all.”

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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