(Based on a true story)
© 2008 C. Lynn Beck
At six-years old, Emily* had already figured out her life was different. Other girls snuggled into soft sweatshirts as the weather cooled—ones that were bubblegum-pink, or banana-yellow. Emily wore an old, holey sweater. It might have been pink . . . once. But by the time someone handed it down to her, it was mostly the color of mud.
At school lunch, other kids munched on bologna sandwiches or peanut butter and jam. And sometimes they brought potato chips.
Emily was lucky to have a piece of smashed bread, covered with a thin layer of butter.
She wondered why her family never had enough food, and why her mother and step-father always argued. Usually he was drunk and had gambled away his paycheck. Even at six, Emily was smart enough to lay low when the fists started flying.
Her brother, Ray*, was five years older but he always kept an eye out for Emily. Once, when he was eleven, he got all dressed up. Emily had never seen him like that before—they didn’t have any clothes that weren’t tattered and worn, so someone must have given them to him. Ray wore green pants, a shirt with embroidered insignia and a hat cocked on the side of his head.
“Ray, how come you look so nice?” Emily asked, her small feet tripping lightly after him as he strode out the door.
“Because I’m a Boy Scout,” Ray said. “I’m going to a Scout meeting. Do you want to hear me say the Scout Oath?”
“Mm-hm.” Emily didn’t know what an oath was, but if he wanted to say one, it was fine with her. She trotted beside him and looked up into his blue eyes.
He took off his hat and held it. Then taking a deep breath, Ray said. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
The fact that it was a mouthful of words didn’t faze Emily. But something else about it scratched at the back of her brain. “Who is this God person?”
Ray stopped and put his arm around her small shoulders. “God is what all of us Scouts believe in. He’s the person who lives in heaven and watches over us.”
You’d think that would have been a complicated concept for a six-year-old to grasp, but something touched Emily’s heart. The idea that there was a loving Father in heaven who was concerned about a shy little girl with a hungry tummy—and an even hungrier heart—filled her with a warm, melted caramel feeling that spread from the top of Emily’s head to the bottom of her worn out sneakers.
As a neglected child—who lacked physical and emotional necessities—Emily’s soul rejoiced at the idea that there was a grown-up named God who kept tabs on her. And that He cared if she owned a bright sweatshirt or ate a decent lunch.
That feeling of love stayed with Emily from then on. It sustained her through the difficulties and trials of her young years. It carried Emily through the rebellion and angst of teenage strife. It helped her grow through the wonderful time of early marriage and motherhood.
That feeling was there the day the missionaries knocked on the door. It was even stronger during the lesson about Joseph Smith receiving a heavenly vision. Emily knew that if Heavenly Father could touch her heart when she was six-years old, he could surely speak with a fourteen-year-old boy.
Emily is older now. The hair that peeks out from under her gardening hat is more gray than blonde. The curves and winding turns in life have taken Emily down a better path than the one on which she started. The clothes in her closet run the gamut from bubblegum-pink to banana-yellow. Emily is always well-fed.
Looking back on her experiences, Emily says softly, “I can’t fail to acknowledge that life took a smoother turn because of a Heavenly Father who constantly interceded on my behalf. I owe my good fortune, happiness, and acceptance of the gospel to the One who loved me from the top of my head to the bottom of my worn out sneakers—the One who never let me forget He cared about a shy little girl with a hungry tummy … and an even hungrier heart.”
* Names have been changed.
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