I froze as three-year-old Shannon’s scream filled the doorway. My hands wet with the preparations for lunch, I swiveled my head in search of a towel. Before I located one, the press of six preschool bodies hit me.
I heard one child’s voice rise above the noisy pack, but didn’t know who spoke. “Quick! Get outta our way. We gotta pray!”
“Whoa, kids! Shannon what happened?”
Her cute little face soaked with tears, Shannon held her hand up. No wonder she continued sobbing. The nails and skin from the tip to the first joint of the four fingers of her hand beamed an excruciating bright red. I pictured the nails turning black, but I knew the painful pressure building under the fingernails would need to be released as soon as possible.
“I’ll get some ice to put on your hand, Shannon. Then, I’ll call your mother.”
The children, having already pulled Jamie*’s blue youth chair to the center of the room, waited for their little patient. “C’mon, Mama Dar. Let Shannon come here. We gotta pray for her.” I couldn’t sort out who said what but I understood as soon as I saw their Prayer Chair.
I twisted cubes out of trays into a bowl, listening to several voices lift Shannon’s need up to Jesus. When I picked up the bowl of ice and turned to head for the living room, the sound of laughter stopped me in my tracks.
“Her don’t need no ice now,” my red-headed, four-year-old foster daughter, Deni* told me as I approached the little gathering. Many of the kids still jumped up and down.
“Jesus made all her ouwies go away,” chimed in three-year-old Sherry*, clapping and dancing as she spoke.
Shannon had not added to the joyful chorus. Kneeling in front of the youngster, I lowered my voice to a whisper and said, “Are you okay, Sweetie? If your fingers still hurt, you can tell me. I’ll call your Mommy to come get you.”
Shannon held her hand so I could see the injured fingers. Just behind a thin trench-like depression near the last knuckle of each finger, stood A dark-red elevated line. I hadn’t seen it earlier. “Do your fingers hurt?” The preschooler shook her head. “That’s good, isn’t it?” Shannon nodded. No smile.
“C’mon, Shannon! Let’s go play! Let’s go play!” The little group of prayer warriors chanted one after the other, while breaking ranks for the kitchen door. The precious little girl just looked at me, waiting.
“It’s okay for you to go play with the kids, if you want to. If your fingers begin to hurt again, I’ll call Mommy to come get you, okay?”
“I don’t wanna go home. I go play.” Dropping out from under my loose embrace, the petite, blonde firecracker ran out the door and down the back steps.
As I reached for the phone to be sure Shannon’s mother agreed with her daughter’s choice, Susie* let out her all-too-familiar Come and get me outta here, cry. Nap over.
I changed the baby’s diaper, hoisted her to one hip, and walked out to the kitchen. From the window, I could see Shannon playing and laughing with the kids. I reckoned I could feed Susie and then call Carroll. At least, that had been my plan.
Five hours later…
Keeping an ear focused on the living room where Deni read one of their storybooks to Jamie, I reveled in the quiet of the evening. How I loved these tranquil moments when only three children occupied the house. The animated young voice competed only with my washing up of the supper dishes. Until one word popped into my mind: Shannon.
“Oh, Carroll! I’m so sorry I didn’t phone earlier. Is Shannon okay? I meant to call right away, but then Susie woke up from her nap, and—“
I heard Carroll’s laughter before she spoke. “Goodness, Dar, what’s wrong? Shannon? Shannon’s just fine. What did you forget to call me about?”
“Her fingers. Didn’t she tell you? The poor little girl slammed them in the screen door. One of the kids had to open the door to free her fingers. The nails must be black by now.”
I heard Carroll call Shannon to come to her. “Which hand was it, Dar?”
“Uh, I have no idea. All four fingers of one hand had a dark-red line by the last knuckle. The skin and under the nails was a bright red that deepened into crimson by the time I’d seen the elevated line. Ask her to show you.”
After a long pause, Carroll returned to the phone. “Hmm? Well, Dar, she can’t remember which hand but did remember the kids praying for her. I don’t see anything on either hand. Pressing on the fingers doesn’t hurt her, so I’m sure she’s fine. ”
That answered my question: The kids never took praying for their friends as just another game—all involved took it seriously, including God.