She was her brother’s protector. She wouldn’t leave him for a millisecond. She’d always been that way. Orphans usually are.
She was six when he came into this world. He was a sick child, born to an addicted mother.
He spent the first months of his life in an incubator. She watched him from behind sterile glass, praying.
When their mother was strong enough to leave the maternity ward, she did. She abandoned them.
Ten years old. She and her brother had already been in a few foster homes.
The new foster parents were good people, but it didn’t matter because she wouldn’t be there for long. She was moving to a new facility in a few weeks.
Her brother would stay behind.
One night, the foster-home parents took the kids to see a holiday church musical. It was the most fun the children could’ve had.
A choir sang, there was a manger scene, real animals on stage, costumes. Then, a potluck social in the fellowship hall.
After the performance, the girl sat in a chapel by herself. She sat, looking at stained glass.
One window bore the image of green hills, with a blue river.
A middle-aged woman with silver hair found her, sitting in a pew. She sat beside the girl, but said nothing.
“What’s that river?” the girl asked.
“That’s the River of Life,” the woman said.
“It’s a river of miracles.”
The girl kept staring at the glass.
“Where’re you from, sweetie?” the woman asked.
The girl shrugged. “I don’t really know.”
“Do your parents go to church here?”
“Don’t got parents.”
More silence. It was the heavy kind of quiet that makes shoulders heavy and hearts slow down.
“Can people swim in that river?” said the girl.
The woman blinked. “You must have come with Jason and Maria,” she said. “You live with them?”
“Yessum, but I’m moving next week.”
“They’s sending me somewheres without my brother.”
The girl went on, “If a little kid swims in that river thingy, can it make them find a mom and dad?”
The woman shrugged. “You have to ask God, sweetie. Only he can tell you that.”
So, the girl bowed her head and started whispering. Eyes closed tight. Purer words have seldom been heard.
“What’re you praying for?” asked the woman.
“For my brother to find a family.”
“But, what about you?”
“Me? I’m too old. Kids my age don’t get adopted.”
So the woman let her pray. The girl made whispered requests until she started sniffling.
The woman touched the child. She said, “Yours just went to the top of his list, honey.”
And so it was.
That was the year someone adopted two Georgia orphans.
A woman. Someone who’d never had children of her own. A silver-haired lady, far past her youth, but not past her prime.
A woman who met two child-strangers in a chapel, and decided to make their lives magnificent. Who paid for college tuitions. Who planned one wedding. Who died before she saw this year’s magnificent holiday.
I know bad things happen. Sometimes, too many things to count.
Because yours just went to the top of the list.