It was our first time backpacking with our parents, and my cousin and I were eager to explore the forested hills around our campsite by the river. After helping set up the tents (or just getting in the way and making the whole process take longer), she and I raced off across a small creek and up the hill overlooking our little yellow homes. We quickly stopped running because steep hills, about a foot of leaves on the ground, and already-sore legs from hiking the two miles to our campsite with backpacks, do not combine to make a child want to keep running. So we meandered our way up the hill, constantly looking up for the top, but never seeing it. This hill was never-ending.
After a while of walking, our little legs burning from the constant up, we plopped into the crunchy cushion of leaves for a break. We soon noticed how many of the leaves comprising our bed were curled up into the shape of closed umbrellas. This observation evolved into a game: trying to see how many umbrella leaves we could hang from a small branch we stuck upright in the ground. Eventually, we realized it was becoming hard to find the umbrella leaves on the ground because the light was fading.
Losing Our Way
We jumped up and ran down the hill, the same combination that stopped us from running uphill now throwing us out of control as we bolted down the leafy slope. After many minutes, we reached the bottom of the hill, and found more forest waiting for us rather than our families and tents. My cousin and I looked at each other, our minds reaching the same conclusion. We were lost.
My heart pounding, we tore off across the hill to the left, hoping we’d chosen the right direction. The faces of my family flashed in my mind, brighter than the trees surrounding me that were blending into the growing darkness. Behind me I heard my cousin fall to the ground and not get back up. I turned around, to the beginning of a quiet sob. I sat down beside her and tried to reassure her that it would be ok, but I couldn’t even convince myself. Then an idea came to me. At eight years old, I wasn’t the strongest in my faith cause I was just beginning to learn, but I suggested that we pray.
A Shout In the Dark
I could barely see my cousin’s head nod in the deepening darkness. I closed my eyes and said a quick, two-sentence prayer that God would help us find our way back. Then I opened my eyes. I had just finished wondering how fast God answers prayers when I heard what sounded like a shout. It was far away, but I knew for certain that it was a person’s voice. My cousin and I jumped up and ran towards it, and as we ran, the shouts became our names. After a few minutes, the silhouettes of our family appeared between the trees. We were found. All it took was a little prayer in the darkness.
Ann White writes from South Carolina.
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