So, when I went to Meeting tonight, I noticed a pup tent in the coat closet. Brightly colored tent, maybe three or four feet long. Red and blue. With pastel blankets in it. I asked one of the other Friends about it, and she said “a little girl lives there”.
I think I know this girl. A few weeks back, a couple of people came into the meeting, with a little girl in tow. It’s not every day someone brings a kid who’s probably six or seven years old into a meeting where she will be expected to sit in respectful silence for the best part of an hour. It’s probably even rarer that the expectation is met. She sat down in the chair next to her dad. He reached over to pat her, and she held his harm. After a bit, she wrapped her arms around his arm, rested her head on it… and didn’t fall asleep. She was just content, not tired.
For the remainder of the meeting, I was amazed at how happy this girl was. Lots of little kids are anxious or nervous or hyper. She was content. She knew where her dad was, and he wasn’t going anywhere, and that was enough.
After the meeting, when we did introductions, they explained that they were visitors from Ohio, come looking for work and sanctuary. Apparently, there is some dispute over whether they (who have raised the child for the last six years) or someone else should be keeping this child. In Minnesota, the courts will tend to favor the people raising her. As, I think, they should; it would be unthinkable cruelty to take this little girl away from her daddy. She’s old enough to miss him, and young enough to need him.
If I’ve figured this out correctly, they are staying in the meeting house until they get themselves established in a new state. This is a good thing. It is right that a little girl should have a place to stay. It is right that a church should be a sanctuary, not just in some vague and general sense, but in the specific sense that there are people who need a place to stay and have found one.
But now I’ll always think of her as a churchmouse. I am considering finding my copy of Margot Austin’s wonderful children’s stories about a churchmouse, and lending it to her, or possibly giving it to her. Little girls in strange places should receive books from time to time.