Prayers of the People
Saturday night friends arrived with a niece who drove to Haines for the holiday and two of her friends and sort of co-workers, if that's what troops are, from Anchorage. They were two young women and a young man-- a blond Californian, a Malaysian immigrant by way of Texas, and a Kentucky farm boy-- all Captains in the Army, all recently returned from Afghanistan. We played a dice game called Busto, and laughed and didn't talk about war, and what they knew that I hope I never do. But when we were in the kitchen dishing up plates of fresh deer and salad, I did tell the farm boy what astronaut Edgar Mitchell said when he came here recently, about how when he saw the earth from space, he realized how silly it is to think that tiny globe spinning in the apparently limitless universe is divided up among nations-- and that someday we will all live in harmony as citizens of Earth. I asked him if that's what US troops may help the world do. "Maybe," he said. "But it's gonna take a while." None of them wanted to return to Afghanistan. I was still thinking about that when I went to church on Sunday morning with my youngest daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter. During the prayers of the people their Presbyterian congregation is pretty specific-- more so than we shy Episcopalians, who stick to first names, and don't give any reasons why he or she is on the prayer list-- but here, they specified spellings, relationships to petitioners, and ailments-- a blood clot, or cancer, or a parasite in the brain, or even just a medical check-up-- and of course, the kindest prayers are for families who have recently suffered a loss-- like Ted Lynch's. My little brown-eyed granddaughter's grandpa, who was supposed to make the turkey for her first Thanksgiving-- I wanted to say something when we were all gathered around the table, just 15 of us, who were all related-- which was a first -- but what with the kids and dogs and the happy chaos it didn 't seem right. We all had Ted in our hearts, and maybe that was enough. Just like when after we prayed for all the people on the long list at church, there was a long moment of silent prayer. That's when I said my private thank yous for all of it-- the family Thanksgiving table, community skate Friday night, the long walk with daughters and dogs Saturday morning, the library holiday lighting Saturday evening, the toddler in braids and a princess outfit, the husbands and boyfriends, for home, family, friends, community. I looked at my daughter's congregation and was glad that they keep praying so closely for all of us-- Then I thought of those young officers-- and this fragile planet we are just caretakers of-- I prayed for peace. Sooner, rather than later. If you can't ask God for that, who do you ask?