Monday, October 6, 2014

Are they really listening?

My grandmother taught me to pray whenever I heard an ambulance. 

“Whenever you hear a siren,” she’d say, “that means someone needs help. Always stop and pray for that person, even if you don’t know who it is.” 

I don’t remember praying often as a child, but whenever I’d hear a siren, whether I was on the playground, doing homework, or lying in bed at night, I’d say a prayer. 

One spring day my sisters and I were visiting my godmother two houses over on the next street. Madrinha was a tiny woman with a tender heart and a generous supply of cookies, and we loved visiting her. We had just seated ourselves on the glider that graced her front porch when I heard the siren. 

I knew the sound originated from the volunteer fire station six blocks away, but instead of fading as it usually did, it got louder and louder and closer and closer. Before long the red truck with flashing lights barreled down the street in front of us. Cars pulled off to the side as it turned right at the corner. 

Dear God, I prayed as my grandmother had taught me, please help the person who needs that ambulance. Help the paramedics take good care of them, and please don’t let them die. Amen.

We finished our Sprite and cookies, but somehow, the fun was gone from the afternoon. I couldn’t quite shake the image of the ambulance with its flashing lights and screaming siren. My sisters and I carried our glasses to the sink, hugged Madrinha, and clomped down the stairs. Suddenly in a hurry to get home, we cut through the two yards between our houses and burst through the kitchen door. 

“Oh, thank goodness you’re home,” my mom said breathlessly. “Granny passed out in the bathroom and hit her head. The ambulance just left. They’re taking her to the hospital. I want you to stay here with your sisters until Daddy gets home. I’m going up to the hospital.” She squeezed my shoulder and was gone, grabbing her keys from the hook by the back door. 

My youngest sister started to cry, and I wanted to join her. 

Whenever you hear a siren, that means someone needs help. Always stop and pray for that person, even if you don’t know who it is. 

Sometimes we underestimate the value of simple lessons and life examples. We wonder if the children around us are really listening, especially when we see little evidence of our impact. 

Teaching the children around us spiritual disciplines, even when they don’t fully understand the importance of them, helps them develop lifelong habits. Later, when they have the spiritual maturity to fully grasp the lesson, the habit is already formed. 

When my daughters swam drills during swim team practice, their coach said he was working on their muscle memory. “If you do it right over and over again,” he’d say, “then one day you’ll dive in the water and your muscles will know what to do.” 

By teaching me to pray whenever I heard an ambulance, be kind to small children and the elderly, and always be honest, my grandmother helped train my faith muscles. I didn’t always understand the spiritual implications of her instructions, but later, when I became a Christian, I already had the foundation for godly behavior. My granny helped develop my faith muscle memory. 

Today, I still pray whenever I hear an ambulance. I’m kind to small children and the elderly, and I try my best to be honest. I’m also looking forward to the day when I can begin teaching my grandchildren important life lessons. 

“Whenever you hear a siren,” I’ll say. . . 

Lori Hatcher is the author of the blog, Hungry for God; Starving for Time, where she provides 5-minute doses of spiritual nutrition for busy people. Like a spiritual power bar, Lori's devotions will nourish your soul when you don't have time for a spiritual meal. To subscribe, click here.

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