Her name was Sarah. She was six years old, with dark brown hair and big brown eyes and rosy cheeks. She was the terror of the Sunday School class.
When the other children lined up for a game, she pushed her way to the front of the line and ran through the obstacle course all by herself, laughing at the top of her lungs.
When the other children sang songs, she jumped and twirled and hid under her chair.
When the other children listened to the Bible story for the day, she told long stories of her own to whoever happened to be sitting next to her.
What on earth was wrong with this child? We grown-ups didn't quite know what to do with her. For lack of a better idea, I decided to make it my job to sit by her every week.
For a while I'm afraid I only made things worse. Sarah now had an audience for her jumping and twirling and hiding. And she knew it. I shushed her and stroked her hair when she started telling her stories, but of course it didn't stop her. I started getting disapproving stares from the other helpers.
I felt like quite a Sunday School Supervisory Loser.
I thought maybe I should scold her. Or give her a time-out. Or take her to a quiet corner to pray. But instead I just kept sitting there. Watching her twirling. Listening to her stories.
One morning, the entire class was quietly watching a puppet show. Sarah stood on one foot, wobbled back and forth, and started hopping sideways.
Suddenly she stopped and whispered in my ear.
"I wish I could live with my mommy and daddy," she said with a little sigh. "My Grandma is nice, but I really miss my mommy."
She looked into my eyes for a minute. I just smiled and stroked her hair.
Then she jumped up
and hid under her chair.