Two days ago, I came upon Shelby, a seven year old, standing in the doorway to the social worker’s office. I drew closer and could see her scuffed high-tops (one untied), a backpack crumpled beside her, and her teeth biting into her lower lip. She clenched both fists and let forth a whimpering sound – a soft wail that issued from her bones.

I asked the social worker – where did you find her? In front of the school. What else can you tell me? Nothing – she hasn’t said a word. How long has she been here? We have both been here for the past ten minutes. What should we do? I don’t know. Did you call home? I left a message? Well?

I’ve called her mom. She’s coming. We just have to wait. We just have to wait.

The social worker dropped her pencil onto the desktop. She pushed back from her desk.  The three of us waited the way we might wait on any given day, wishing for a tactic or insight that might snap us forward to some new undiscovered place called ‘whatever comes next.’ Then the room became still.

A tall woman, dark, calm, appeared at the top of the stairs. I hadn’t seen her before but I knew who she was. She approached and I stepped aside. Leaning down, she said nothing more than ‘hush’, and planted a kiss on the little girl’s braids.  Shelby looked up toward her mother’s face and their eyes met.

Get to class. I’ll bring your lunch. Everything’s going to be alright.

Magic between the words that will never appear in any spell. Gentle, deep, and silent transmission between these two spirits. They sufficed. Shelby picked up her backpack and left on her own. Then, mom and social worker stepped out. I remained.

Behind me the door locked. In that solitude, silence gathered. I could not speak to what lay in that silence. I could feel an ache that the little girl had left behind – as if she left it for me to consider.

Shelby’s mother rubbed ointment and heated through to the marrow.  She righted things the way a mother can.  She soothed the rawness and reminded her daughter that she would be there for her. Her kiss stilled the little girl; communion that connected through emptiness. She reminded me of my mother’s kiss that could still lift my spirit these many years later.

Everything will be alright.

Wisdom waits within the bones. It comes forth when it has to. That arising might come without warning and I know of no way to prepare for it. Bones, for their part, waste no time on the cumbersome ways of spoken words. Be still, be still, be still. Have your dream and pretend.  Lean into a storm, tight jawed and fearless.

Then release the dream and let emptiness fill with softer truths. Let all of it in this second time through. Say less. Hear more. Be as strong as your child’s heart allows. That will be enough.


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