“My train is go-ing… I see it in your eyes.” Shari tried hard to smile, “Do you remember the words to that old song?”
Debbi nodded, fighting back tears. Her best friend was leaving—perhaps forever. Her eyes flitted around the small park where they had spent so many hours together. “How about this one?” she countered, “‘this used to be my playground.’ ”
Shari raised a hand to her mouth, laughing, “Oh Yes!”
Holding hands, they meandered from the old swing set to the tree house and over to the sand pit. The silence was sweet; each savoring treasured moments, past and present.
They settled underneath the drooping branches of the giant willow tree whose shade had hosted countless tea parties and adventures.
Debbi ventured, “I remember the first time I saw you—I hated you.”
Shari glanced at her sharply, “you did?”
“Yeah,” the confession springing forth unexpectedly, “Mom had told me the day before what had happened and that you were going to be living with us. The only thing I could think of was that I would have to share my room and you’d be getting into all my things.”
“I don’t believe it!” Shari protested.
“It’s true! But when I saw you standing there, you looked so sad. And I realized that you hadn’t just lost a favorite toy or something, you had lost your entire world. Your Mom and Dad were gone. I didn’t know what to say; I just ran over to give you a hug.”
“Now that I remember,” Shari agreed. “It was exactly what I needed. Someone to really show they cared. Not just mumble kind words and all. When you hugged me, I felt the first glimmer of hope that I could go on.”
“And now you’re leaving! I can’t believe you’re going to Pakagonia or wherever”, the crack in Debbi’s voice betrayed the lightness she was trying to project.
Shari squeezed her hand. “I know. I’ll miss you. I’ll send you an e-mail as soon as I get there.” Debbi managed a weak smile.
“Debbi, we’re sisters in every way that counts. You know I have to do this. My parents died when I was little--I know how loneliness can consume people. You and your folks were a Rock to me. I want to make that kind of difference to other kids like me.”
“I know, Shari”, Deb mumbled in reply, “You’ll be great. You’ll be a mom and a big sister to each one of those kids.”
“Debbi, it’s more than that. I don’t want to be just a smile to brighten their day for a moment. What’s that quote? ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’” Debbi nodded as Shari continued, “I want to teach those kids about Jesus. So they’ll be comforted in his loving arms long after I’m gone.”
Debbi smiled wanly. “It’s a great job for you Shari. I envy you--chasing after your dream of helping people. I’m still not sure what God wants me to be. I’ll probably go to college or something.”
Shari laughed. “Debbi, you still don’t get it. God doesn’t want you to be anything. Remember the parable of the talents?* How God gave five talents to one person, two to another, and one to a third? Then He came back later to see what they did with them?
“God gave you abilities; He wants you to use them however you want. This whole idea that God created you to be a doctor or a lawyer is just wrong. Figure out what you really want to do, helping people however you want to do it… and go for it.
“Later on, you can show how you used those abilities and developed more and didn’t just hide them under a rock. That’s all God wants.”
“Are you really going?” Debbi implored with a final gasp of hope.
“I’m all packed. I’m ready. But I need you to promise me one thing.” Shari said with a note of seriousness.
Debbi waited expectantly
“I need to you to promise to pray for me every day. It will make a difference, Debbi. I’ll be in some tough places. Your prayers might be what keeps me alive.”
“I promise, Sis! Every day!”
Through the gently swaying willow branches, they watched the sun fade beyond the distant mountains. Tomorrow would be a fresh new day.
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