A Preschooler Prays7:18 AM
"Pway for Grandpa's back!" she's always telling me.
"Pway for Lindsey's fwiend!" (who twisted her ankle months ago -- Caroline still prays).
"Pway for Sarah lip!"
"Pway for my froat!" she clamors, because I asked how they were that morning and she woke up with a runny nose.
But after we review catechism questions and toss out distracting toys, after telling Daniel to sit up and telling them both we're going to pray now, this is all I hear: "Pway for Manda!"
Manda lives in Indonesia. We hung her picture on the bulletin board in the Preschool Zone several months ago, when we joined Compassion International, when we pledged to support her. I didn't want her to be an object of charity to me -- I wanted her to be a recipient of love, love backed by prayers and full hearts and not by green paper only. I knew I would forget, forget because new boots and play practices and winning scholarship money would crowd out the five-year-old who has almost nothing.
Her pictures hangs in the Preschool Zone to remind me to remind my siblings (and to remind myself) of the pure religion, the undefiled.
"Can I pray for Manda?" Daniel asks me, immediately.
"Me pway Manda!" cries Caroline.
"Dear heavenly Father," prays Daniel ("Sit up, Daniel -- we need to show respect"), "dear heavenly Father," he prays, flopping across the floor, "help Manda to get food and toys and water and milk. In Jesus' name, amen."
"Dear God," says Caroline, "help Manda. Amen!"
Sometimes I feel it means nothing to them -- when they argue about who gets to pray first, when they cheesily grin between exaggerated thank yous. Sometimes I feel it means nothing to me -- our charity is in our head, in our tax deductions, not our hearts.
And then I tell them about another little girl I read about, who had no roof, no bed, and he prays the next morning, "Dear heavenly Father, please help Manda get food and toys and water and milk and a roof."
We are slow learners -- in preschool, all of us, figuring out love in the messy basement corner. We don't know always who is in need or what they need -- I don't, but I'm trying. I pray that she knows Jesus. I pray that she knows she's loved. We write a letter to her on neon orange paper and tell her we pray for her every day.
That morning I listen to them, sparkling eyes, little lips, irreverent posture -- they're praying for a little girl they don't know in a country they can't imagine. Not for ponies or baby dolls. I am seventeen, I am Christian, I know divine love, and rarely do I pray that prayer. That I should write wish-lists and window shop downtown and stuff myself with Christmas cookies and cocoa -- oh, God! If only the cry of my wants was replaced by the cry of the millions who truly need. I'm learning, I'm breaking...with a little help from toddler prayers.