Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Winter (11/14/05)
TITLE: One Child at a Time
By Garnet Miller
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“I can’t do this anymore, Lord,” she lamented, alone in her car. “I wanted to help the children the way someone helped me. But, I can’t rescue them all.”
One day, one child, she heard the Spirit say.
The orphanage seemed to rise out of the snowy landscape. Ice-covered branches glistened in the morning sun. Holly berries sparkled like jewels and deer drank from the stream flowing under the bridge Elisabeth traveled. Her eyes drank in the peaceful scene.
She rolled to a stop in front of St. Catherine’s Home for Children. Opening the top folder in her stack, she read the name: Parker Sullivan, age ten.
“Great, another young face to smile into that doesn’t realize I can’t help him,” she thought.
At the door, she met a woman in her mid-fifties, wearing the traditional black habit.
“Are you the social worker, Elisabeth Warren?” the nun said.
“I’m Sister Rebecca,” she said, extending a hand. “Welcome to St. Catherine’s.”
The cavernous hallway reminded Elisabeth of a gothic cathedral. At the end of the corridor, they turned right and entered a dormitory wing.
“How long has he been here?”
“About a year or so—since the accident,” Sister Rebecca said.
Sister Rebecca pointed towards the end of the hall. “His is the last one on the left.”
Elisabeth knocked and opened the door. A dark-haired boy sat on the floor reading a book. Elisabeth sat down in one of the chairs surrounding an oval table.
“Parker, my name is Elisabeth. I’m here to—”
“I know why you’re here,” he said.
“Tell me, then,” she said.
“You came to see if I like it here.”
“And, do you…like it here?” Elisabeth asked.
“Have you read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?” Parker held up his book.
“Yes I have,” she said.
“It’s like that here. The White Witch made it always winter but never Christmas.”
Confused, she kept silent and let him continue.
“In winter, everything’s pretty, but cold. Christmas makes things warm. It’s cold here.”
“Aren’t the nuns friendly?”
“They mean well and they talk about God and Jesus, but I don’t understand any of it.”
Elisabeth smiled. “It is Jesus’ birth that makes Christmas so special.”
Parker put down his book. A spark of interest leapt into his eyes. She proceeded to tell him the Christmas story.
“Does God’s forgiveness include the man who burned our house and killed my mom?”
Elisabeth bit her lip and silently prayed for guidance. “Yes, Parker, it includes him, too—if he wants forgiveness. When we say we are sorry to God, He forgives us and shows us how to become better people.”
“How old do you have to be to ask for forgiveness? I haven’t been too good lately for Sister Rebecca.”
“You can ask Him right now.”
“Can God help me stop hating the man who took my mother away?” A tear slid down his cheek.
Elisabeth touched his hands. “Yes—one day at a time, Parker.”
She closed the door behind her when she left. A pain in her soul coveted every step that led her away from his door. Sister Rebecca met her in the corridor.
“Has there been any interest in adopting Parker?” Elisabeth asked.
“I’d like to say yes, but the reality is that Parker has ‘aged out’ of the range that couples want to adopt. He may be with us for the duration.”
* * * *
Parker placed the last ornament on the tree.
“Now what are we going to do?” he asked with enthusiasm.
“How about choosing a book and we’ll read together?”
He did not reach for his book, but grabbed the book on the coffee table and handed it to Elisabeth.
“Can you read the Jesus Christmas story to me?”
Now it was Elisabeth’s turn to shed a tear.
“I’m glad they let me spend Christmas with you.” Parker leaned on her shoulder.
She glanced at the papers tucked beside her. “This is only the beginning.”
Renewed purpose entered her life through a boy named Parker Sullivan. The love Elisabeth felt could be lavished upon many children. God had shown her the way—one child at a time.
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