My childhood prayer was always the same –
Thank you for the trees, the flowers, and the sunshine.
One time I added a flashlight to the list (must have been after our electricity got cut off), but in general that was the stock prayer. I went for pre-approved prayer items that made adults say “awwww . . . ” and helped me look adorable.
My daughter, on the other hand, had more honest prayers. . .
After a particularly tough day when she did not get the toy she wanted at Walmart and fell off her bike and scraped her knee, she prayed this prayer:
Thanks for nothin’.
Another time, after her brother had knocked his head open, she ended the night with this one:
Thanks for blood and make-up.
I’m not sure how the make-up worked its way in, but it seemed to be important to her. I was always moved by Samantha’s straight talk. She didn’t sugar-coat it, or try to be adorable, or ask for stuff.
There were just days where she had a bone to pick with God, and she went for it.
And sometimes the tough stuff is what we need to be thankful for . . .
When I was a kid going in and out of hospitals, my prayers changed. I had some mysterious illness, and spent a lot of time with needles in my arm. During that year, I didn’t thank God for my illness, or for the hospital.
But now I realize that a lot of my belief in humanity comes from those days of being in a children’s hospital ward, where other kids around me were hurting and scared and sick.
Because it is in those moments that we stop being super-amazing-positive people, and we wail in our hearts. We shake in our boots. We pray with fists clenched.
When I sat in a hospital bed at the tender age of eight and listened to my parents footsteps disappear down the hospital corridor, knowing that I wouldn’t see them for a couple of days, I cried from the depths of my soul. I didn’t think I could do it. I wanted to go home.
I truly believe my hospital stay is the reason I always have an escape route wherever I go. Because, once in my life, I couldn’t go anywhere when I really, really wanted to.
Believe me, I didn’t pray that night. I was pissed.
A couple of days later, the nurse warned me that I was to call her if I needed to go to the bathroom because they had taken a lot of blood that morning. Since she made Nurse Ratched seem like Martha Stewart, I decided to listen.
But then I had to go, really badly, and I was afraid to make her mad. So, I tried to jump over my bed railing and get to the bathroom without being seen. When I hit the floor my legs gave out and I fell forward, knocking my head on the tile floor.
That brilliant move resulted in a concussion, two more days in the hospital, and a lecture from the nurse who could terrify a demon.
But as I lay on the concrete floor crying, and Belinda who was in the bed across from me tried to help even though she couldn’t walk, I learned compassion. When Georgianna, who was losing her last kidney and weeks away from death gave me her stuffed toy to sleep with, I learned about giving. And when the doctor came in to check me for a concussion and looked exactly like a character in a book I was reading, I learned that life is one, big story.
And the most heroic story characters show up during tough times.
So, here’s to the rough days, the sick days, the sad days. Most of all, here’s to the people who help us through them.
Thanks for tough times. And dark days. And for the people you send to share their light with us.
And, thanks for make-up. Samantha was right – it’s a God-send.