Hearing the Voice of an Angel

Hearing the Voice of an Angel

End of a long summer day at the Children’s Village. It’s nine o’clock and this old guy is pooped. I’ve had kids around me all day. Timmy needed a one-on-one to finish writing a story. Marie and Sam wanted me to take them to the Dollar Store. Allison and Mimi brought over a vampire movie for me to watch. Tony and I went out for pizza. Mamamia! I love these little buggers but no I don’t want to see any of them for the rest of the day.

Time to close my door, maybe have a beer and watch the last two innings of the Giant’s game on TV.

There’s a knock on my door. Phooey! “Grandpa Hank, I want to show you something.” It’s the wispy little voice of Serena. “Honey, Grandpa is tired and it’s late.” “But I just want to show you something.” Wearily, I give in. “Okay but just for a minute.”

Serena is a skinny little ten- year- old who could pass for about seven. She carries a song sheet in her hands. “Grandpa Hank, can I sing this song for you?” Her request startles me; I had never even heard her sing before and kids her age are usually way too shy to sing in front of an adult. Intrigued, I sit down on my easy chair and wait for her to begin. She blushes. “You can’t look at me cuz I get embarrassed.” Obediently, I look away.

The little girl starts singing softly, almost in a whisper at first.

“The more we get together, together, together,

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be

For your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

I listen to her thin little voice and little by little feel the fatigue of the day melting away. It’s the voice of an angel. I am honored that she chose to share this moment with me. “Sweet heart, that was beautiful. Thank you for letting me hear you sing. You can sing to me anytime.” Serena beams shyly. Her little-girl face breaks into one of those winning, steal your soul kind of smiles.

I want to give her a hug but she is already headed for the door. “Thanks for listening to me,” she calls out over her shoulder. “No, I should be thanking you,” I start to say but she has already disappeared into her house next door.

Most of us experience some great moments in our lives…graduation day from high school, first love, our wedding day, birth of a child. These big moments give drama to our lives but then there are the countless little moments. These, some of which only we will remember, are also part of who we are. For me, being an audience of one listening to Serena’s song was one of those moments.

Needing Something to Carry

Needing Something To Carry

A young man asked a lonely old man, “What is life’s heaviest burden?” The man replied without hesitation, “ To have nothing to carry.”

E. Scott O’Connor

I went grocery shopping the other day with one of the Village kids. Any parent who has taken kids shopping knows that having kids along is not the best way to get the job done economically. But, I was squeezing in some one-on-one time with a kid who seemed sort of needy that day. The mini-shopping trip would, at least, give us some time together.

After we made our purchases, and were leaving Safeway, “Sean” asked me if he could carry one of the bags of groceries I was toting. The bags were light and I could easily have carried them myself but I readily let him help me. Hey, when a kid offers to help, take him up on his offer. Besides, it was evident, Sean wanted something to carry.

The incident got me thinking about our human need to feel useful not just when we are kids but through our whole lives. E. Scott O’Connor’s observation came to mind. Most of us find life burdensome at times but the greater burden is having nothing to carry.

All of us have a human need to matter to someone else. Country singer Tom T. Hall wrote a song about an old farmer who lived alone and was beside himself when he had to be admitted to the hospital. It wasn’t himself he worried about. He asked instead “Whose gonna feed my hogs?”

Many of us long for the day when our kids will be gone or when we can retire not realizing that the nirvana we thought we would find when we were finally free from all our responsibilities is an illusion. We are somehow incomplete if we have no one who is counting on us. Human beings are wired to have a symbiotic relationship with one another. We are in this world to carry one another’s baggage. If at times it is a burden, so be it. To have no one who needs us, nothing to carry, is the heaviest burden of them all.

Making Do with a Fantasy Dad

Making Do With a Fantasy Dad

When a fifth grade boy in a school in Texas was asked to write an essay about “My Very First Dad,” his essay pulled at his teacher’s heart strings.

“I remember him like God in my heart. I remember him in my heart like the clouds overhead and strawberry ice cream and bananas when I was a little kid. But the most I remember is his love, as big as the State of Texas when I was born.”

I have inspirational writer Terry Hershey to thank for sharing this charming little story even though it came with this postscript. “The boy who wrote this story about the dad whose love for him was ‘as big as Texas,’ had never even met his dad. The boy had been abandoned by his father before he was born.”

Folks who have worked with foster kids or kids in group homes have no difficulty in figuring out why a kid would “make up” a story like this. The yearning for an absent parent runs so deep in a child’s heart that he will create an idealized person to fill the void in his life. Kids need to have that bond with a parent whose love for them is unconditional. If that parent does not exist, they create one; they dream him or her into existence.

Living with kids at the Village, I have become aware of something just as poignant.

As difficult as it is for a child to create a make-believe parent like the fifth grade boy did in the story, it is even more touching to see a kid re-invent their real flesh and blood parents. Flawed, imperfect, even abusive parents are transformed in a child’s mind to be the idealized mom and dad they hoped to have in their lives.

Kids do not easily give up on their parents. They would rather blame themselves for screwing up. They want so badly for their parents to be responsible and loving and kind, they would rather resort to make-believe than to believe ill of their mom or dad.

Maybe it’s a good thing. We all need to hang on to our hopes. And, in many cases their parents are sorry for what they have done or failed to do. Who is to say that even the worst parent can’t turn their lives around? And I, for one, wouldn’t dream of judging any kid’s parents or more importantly dashing the hopes and dreams of a child.