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The spirit of a child (01/07/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns

The world of childhood should be, ideally, enchanting, secure, affectionate, playful, inquisitive, and every nurturing and loving attribute one can imagine.

Those who have experienced the free spirit of an innocent child could do no less than adore and protect that pureness. Right?

Realistically, life isn't exactly Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss. A child is sugar and spice and everything nice - until or unless cruelly defiled, robbed of guileless naivety.

During the month of December there are always several events to attend in which children play major roles. The church Christmas pageant always holds a few surprises. The thunder of sheep scampering down the aisles on all fours, the angel whose wings and halo are cockeyed, a proud young man with an enormous singing voice, and the dimpled blonde girl whose sign is upside down.

Our granddaughters' dance recital took place before Christmas vacation. Pat and I made our way up into the crowded gym bleachers, with the din of everyone chatting at once. How long will this take? It had been a busy day. In the hush of the opening performance we looked at each other with the understanding that we wouldn't have missed this for anything!

The Holiday elementary school programs ushered in a multitude of people as well. I couldn't help but recall that, in our kids' era, these events weren't usually full houses. Was it my imagination, or are there actually more males in audiences nowadays? It seems more folks "do"¯ public programs, and focus more attention on what the children are involved in.

After the students march in with their grades to perform, each child scans the bevy of enthusiastic faces to find the familiar smiles of family, daycare moms, and friends.

They are dressed in their best, the girls fussing with skirts and hair bows, while the boys poke and prod each other. There's always that one star-struck child who waves and forgets to sing until it's almost over.

As families retrieve their little stars, everyone seems to glow with accomplishment. But there is that one"¦a shaking, frowning girl clings to her teacher, tears in her eyes. Her hair is uncombed and the out of season, flowered dress hangs loosely on her frail frame.

It's that wee one who always seems to appear everywhere, as you rush through the motions of the season. You spotted her as you filled your cart with toys and clothes for your grandchildren for Christmas. She was there, her nose to the window glass, while you ate a fast food lunch.

As you loaded your car with groceries, you caught a glimpse of her rounding the corner of Wiens Food Center as her shadow paused there against the snowy ground"¦waiting"¦waiting.

The season of Christmas has been spent for another year. All the children are safely tucked away in warm and cozy beds each winter's night"¦oh, but not her. As you left church on Sunday, you saw her bare and dirty fingers reaching, and just as swiftly the frigid air hung empty around you.

The sad, wayward child is the very one we all carry deep in the recesses of consciousness. The images of poverty, neglect, abuse, and despair pierce our Christmas hearts. Should the season ever really come to an end?

The spirit always finds it's way"¦ sooner or later. However, it wouldn't hurt to keep our lights burning and our batteries charged.

Janet Burns is comfortable living in her friendly hometown of Lewiston, where folks are charitable and compassionate. She can be reached at patandjanburns@earthlink.net 


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