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Young P


Yesterday evening, we had our first bonfire of the season. It's an activity that goes back to my childhood, and now my wife and I do it now several times each year as the warm days of summer give way to the cooler days of autumn. We invite friends, neighbors, and our church family to come, and we spend the evening usually sitting around the open fire roasting hot dogs, eating, talking, listening to songs on the radio, and making smores.

This occasion of our bonfire was also a celebration of our niece's tenth birthday, and there were about six other children her age who were present. Three of those children came with a married couple who are friends of my wife that I am slowly getting to know. Their youngest daughter, to whom I'll refer as 'P' (her first initial), is the reason for this blog entry.

The children were keeping themselves occupied pretty well. My niece likes to be the center of attention, so she was the master of ceremonies with all of the activities related to her birthday. She announced when it was time to cut the birthday cake. Then she led all of the children into the back yard to dance to some music she streamed over her BFF's phone. When she was ready to open her birthday presents, she led the group back into the house to the living room.

A few times during the evening, I made the suggestion that maybe it was time to make smores. I did this once to my niece, once to her mother, and also once or twice aloud where the other children could hear. My niece has attended a few previous bonfires, so she showed little interest having made smores before. But some of the other children showed interest. Young P was one of those. At one point, she tried to get my niece to lead the entire group outside, but my niece was having too much fun carrying out her own agenda.

While my niece was opening presents, I was sitting in the kitchen talking to a couple from our church. P stepped into the room. She waited until there was a break in the adult's conversation, then very respectfully she walked up to me and said that she would very much like to make smores. I told her that I would be happy to show her how. Soon, we were walking into the back yard. I carried the marshmallows, P brought some plates, and I called back to my brother-in-law asking him to bring graham crackers and Hershey bars.

My neighbor and one of his young boys was near the fire when we sat down the ingredients for smores and began opening the packages. That boy would later make a smore for himself, as did the oldest youth in attendance—a young man who would have preferred not to come to the bonfire at all but ended up having a good time.

Young P was attentive and eager to get started. I told her to choose a stick, and then I pushed a marshmallow onto the end of it. I asked her if she wanted the marshmallow to burn black or just be toasted a little. She opted for a light toast, so I told her to hold the marshmallow above the flames, and if it caught fire to quickly blow it out. Meanwhile, I took out a graham cracker, snapped it in half, and then broke off a square from the Hershey bar. She was finished cooking the marshmallow quickly, and as she presented it, I laid the chocolate on one half of the graham cracker, placed it under the marshmallow, and pressed the other half of the graham cracker on top as I pulled the marshmallow off of the stick.

I handed the warm treat to P, expecting her to run away with it and begin devouring it. Instead, she smiled and asked to make another. "Sure," I said as I set the first smore on the plate and reached for another marshmallow. We repeated the process, and now with two smores on the plate, I did expect her to pick it up and walk away. But instead, she held the stick out said, "let's make more for the others." At this point, I took a quick glance into her eyes to see what they would tell me, and I realized something about this child. She had not come up to me and asked to make smores because she was desiring the sweet taste of chocolate and melted marshmallow. Nor was she wanting to be entertained by the activities around the fire. She wasn't interested in being educated about how to make a smore. Also, she wasn't motivated by having the undivided attention of an adult. She wanted to do something to serve the others in the group.

Four smores were enough to fill the plate to capacity with a single layer. By this time, the boy and the young man were lining up to make a smore of their own. So I picked up the plate and told P, "Why don't you take these around and see who wants one?" She smiled, took the plate from my hands, and walked at a fast pace back towards the house with her offering. No sooner had the boys each poked a marshmallow onto a stick and took up a position around the fire that P had returned with the empty plate and exchanged it for the stick she had before. She held the end out towards me, and soon we were an assembly line churning out another plate full.

As we finished making our seventh smore, dusk was starting to turn to darkness. Since my overhead light is not working, pretty soon we were only going to have the firelight by which to see. I told her we would make one more smore, and I started picking up the trash as she held the marshmallow over the dying flames.

Our guests were starting to leave. P's parents stood up from their chairs and moved towards our front door, and P joined them. I approached, and P looked up at me. "I'm so glad to have met you," I told her. Her dad held out his hand to shake mine and to thank us for inviting them, and I said to him and his wife, "Your daughter here has a servant's heart."

Later that night as Sheila and I were climbing into bed, she asked me if I had a good time. When I said "Yes," she asked what I liked best about it. I told her this story, and then I shared my thoughts about P. I told Sheila that the girl reminded me of a lady who goes to our church who also has a servant's heart, working tirelessly to help make every church activity memorable for everyone who comes. Sheila understood that by my making this comparison, I thought very highly of P. "I have never had this feeling before," I said, "but I wish her parents would start coming to our church as members so I could be her pastor."

What a joy it is to have people like Young P in your congregation, serving the Lord together!

Spirit and Truth Fellowship /