The small Ozark town where I live, is nestled in the beautiful Current River Valley. Sprinkled within and around its borders are numerous quaint little country churches, where families large and small, gather together for Sunday worship services.
A few years ago, on a lovely Spring morning, I attended one of these Sunday services at a friends’ church. Tall, spreading oaks surrounded this lovely small, white church. The windows had been opened to allow the breeze to enter, and to my delight, we sat in the third pew on the left, near one of the open windows.
A small congregation of about forty people settled down and soon joined forces in praising the Lord with a hymn. Directly in front of me sat a family of four: mother, father, grandmother, and a young boy, who was about five or six years old. He had hair the color of straw, and the voice of an angel, for he sang along quite loudly and sweetly, knowing all the words of the hymn.
The minister walked up to the pulpit to give the sermon. "Today," he began, but was quickly interrupted by a cheerful and loud sound that rang throughout the little church.
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!
"Well, it seems we have an uninvited visitor among us, this morning," the minister said, bemused but somewhat annoyed at the interruption.
The sound rang out again and a murmur rose as the congregation glanced around, searching for the culprit. The little boy quickly turned to his left, then to his right. He looked directly behind him and then glanced up at us, his face intense. I couldn’t help but smile.
"As I was saying..." the minister began again.
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! The uninvited visitor continued singing loudly.
Soon, everyone was looking to our side of the church. The uninvited visitor was somewhere in our vicinity. People glanced under the pews, feet poised to eradicate the noisy little bug.
"There he is," whispered an elderly man directly in front of the boy, his foot thrusting forward. But just before his shoe could come down on the black chirper, the little boy dove under the pew noisily.
"Brian! What are you doing?" his father whispered loudly.
Despite his father’s reprimanding tone and his mother’s attempt to pull him back, the boy wriggled forward and captured the noisy critter.
During the commotion, the grandma, apparently aware of the workings of a the young boy, smiled tolerantly.
‘I got him!" Brian announced loudly, as he emerged with tightly cupped hands. "He is just doing what crickets do. I’ll take him outside and let him go. He shouldn’t be squashed just for doin’ what crickets do."
The boy hurried down the isle toward the back door, keeping his hands tightly cupped. As he reached it, someone opened the door for him and he disappeared.
By this time, everyone in the congregation was smiling and nodding. The minister waited until the boy came back inside and rejoined his family in the pew. Then, with one last smile directed at the lad, he returned to the service without anymore interruptions.
With a sparkle in her eye, the boy’s grandma leaned down and tousled his hair affectionately. "You’ve made the Lord smile this morning with your good deed, Brian."
Then, the boy with the straw-colored hair-obviously proud of his good deed- joined in the singing again, even more enthusiastically then before, while the uninvited visitor chirped gaily outside the small country church, where families gathered together for Sunday worship services.
First Published in-"The Rocking Chair Reader: Family Gatherings," by Adams Media, Copyright 2005.
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