One summer night, years ago, I met a different kind of nine-year-old. He was day and night from my little boy, the one I had left at Grandma’s, safely watching videos and eating popcorn, with instructions negating any chance of taking part in neighborhood night games (hide and seek, kick the can etc.). I would be away overnight and this was my word to my little protected obedient son.
As the shopping mall closed their 9 PM doors I was disappointed that my bookstore browse had come to a close, but I was looking forward to some solitude as part of my weekend getaway. As I entered the lobby of the vintage downtown condominium a young child was trying to use the phone, the kind of phone guests use to call a particular room to see if someone is in. Decked in a white well-worn cowboy hat, complete with feather, he turned and said, “Hey lady, do you know how to call Utah?” I brought the little blue-eyed picture of confidence into my room and helped him call his older brother, collect. For you who are not of a certain age, that means the charge for this call would show up on big brother’s bill, not mine, next month! The big brother answered from the land-line at the family home 40 miles away, back where this little boy had boarded a bus bound for adventure. I agreed to keep the little guy for a while and give him a place to stay until his brother drove into the big city. I was to wait for a call from the lobby.
As we waited we talked, or rather he interviewed me, and our conversation went something like this:
“Are you young?” He asked boldly.
“Are you crazy! How old are you?” I replied.
“Do you have kids? Where is your husband? Is he good at what he does? What would you be doing if I weren’t here? Did you go to the mall? Did you go to Orange Julius and KB toys and the chocolate store?”
Every few minutes he adjusted his large hat to keep it from falling in his eyes. He repeatedly kicked his legs against the bottom of my couch, and wiggled around as he fired off question after question. His little body was filled with energy. This kid had enough adventure in his bones to last him a lifetime.
After the better part of an hour a very disgruntled brother rang the room from the lobby. As I let the little guy out the door I was not envious of his mother, his fourth-grade teacher, or the girl who would someday fall in love with him. I was, however, a little envious of the big spirit inside his little body, a big spirit that took a little boy on such a big adventure
As he walked down the hall I considered my own innocent nine-year-old son who had hardly ever been outside our neighborhood, whose baseball mitt was sitting neatly on his bed right beside his battered old fluffy bunny, and who still secretly liked to be rocked to sleep on occasion. I was struck with a bit of terror, knowing that like it or not, sooner than later, he and his siblings would get on a “bus” without me, a bus bound for adventures they couldn’t then imagine and I certainly did not want to think about. Standing there I also knew that there would be times in the future when they would get off the “bus,” and have no idea where they were!
At that moment it became clear to me that if I really want to protect children I need to spend my life sharing the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. These principles are the only source of real safely to be found in this very dangerous world. They help us know which bus to take—which one takes us to the Destination we really desire to reach, and they help us know how to get off when we find ourselves on a bus we have no business being on in the first place.
Are there any children of God who don’t need to know who to turn to because they have gotten off life’s bus at the wrong stop and have no idea where they are? Is there any greater privilege than helping someone develop the faith and tenacity to ask, “Hey, do you know how to call God? Can you show me? Can you help me get back to the ‘Ranch’?”
And finally, is there anything more important than helping frightened children—mine and yours—receive the courage to make that call? Each of our Father’s little ones, without exception, needs to know that they have a Big Brother who actually waits by the phone, who is anxious for it to ring, and who is very aware that all of our calls to Him are collect. I want to wear out my life reassuring those who mistakenly believe they are too lost and have used their last quarter that, no matter what, Our Big Brother will happily make the journey to pick us up and take us safely Home.
By Nannette Wiggins
Posted September 28, 2014 (Experienced—April 21,1989)
Copyright 2011 by Nannette Wiggins. All right reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.