A Child’s Prayer

by | Jun 12, 1997 | Anger, Forgiveness, Words

When the public schools of New Orleans were integrated under court order in 1960, four six-year-old black girls were selected to break the immoral barrier that had been built over generations to keep white and black children apart. Three were assigned to one school, and Ruby Bridges was sent alone to Frantz Elementary School. How was a little girl supposed to deal with such tension?

She was escorted to and from school each day by federal marshals for her protection. She had to run the gauntlet of taunts, curses, and threats from adults as she arrived and left each day. White parents took their children out of Frantz, and Ruby was the only child in Miss Hurley’s first-grade class.

Dr. Robert Coles is a child psychiatrist who studied Ruby’s experience. He visited with Ruby and her family twice every week. He interviewed Miss Hurley about her pupil. To his amazement, Ruby was sleeping soundly every night, eating well, and playing with neighborhood children as before. “You know, I don’t understand this child,” said her teacher. “She seems so happy. She comes here so cheerfully.”

One morning Miss Hurley was watching Ruby walk toward the school. Suddenly the little girl stopped right in the middle of the screaming, jeering crowd. Facing all those angry people, her lips started moving. Miss Hurley thought she was talking to them. She wondered what Ruby might be saying to people who seemed ready to kill her. The marshals tried to move her into the building. But she wouldn’t budge until she finished what she was saying.

Miss Hurley asked her later what had happened, and Ruby explained. “I wasn’t talking to those people,” she said. “I was praying. I was praying for them.” You see, every morning Ruby had stopped a few blocks from her school to pray for the people who hated her. That morning she had forgotten until she was already on the sidewalk in the middle of the angry adults.

Here is what she prayed twice a day, before and after school. “Please, God, try to forgive those people. Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing. So you could forgive them, just like you did those folks a long time ago when they said terrible things about you.”

Think you have some tough situations to face this week? Have to deal with some unpleasant people? Have to confront people who are unkind or unfair? I recommend you try Ruby’s method and remember that Jesus said of little children, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Rubel Shelly The FAX of Life


A Child’s Prayer