Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Over a thousand children homeless in Alief this Christmas
As children, many of us prayed this prayer at bedtime. Even after I was older and praying more mature prayers, I still prayed my “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. I knew it was childish and I’m embarrassed to say how long I held onto it but it held a very special place for me and gave a sense of safety. I can remember that as a child I was very concerned about the sentence “If I should die before I wake.” I can remember asking my mother whether I was going to die in my sleep. Even with her reassurance, I still worried that I might die in my sleep. Combined with my fear of the dark and boogie men it made bed time a bit uncertain. Needless to say, at age 73 I did wake up in my bed and nothing got me.
Not all children can have the assurance that I did and that most of us who prayed that pray, did. Over the years, in my work with TMO I have heard numerous stories of children who had to sleep in the bath tub because of guns being discharged in the apartments where they lived; or the stories of children who have had to move out of their apartment in the middle of the night to keep the landlord from taking the family’s possessions and then living in their car or in a cardboard box for days, weeks, or months; or the stories of children who are abandoned by their parents and not knowing where they will lay their head the next night; or the stories of children living in the villages and countries where we do mission work who are kidnapped at gunpoint and required to do horrible things to family and neighbors or made to sell their bodies and having no control over their young lives.
Children should not have to live like this! They should know without qualification that they are loved by the adults in their lives and that they are precious in the eyes of God. As we work in our communities in mission and outreach we need to remember that what we’re trying to do is to ensure that children are kept safe from harm and that each morning they will awake knowing that the adults in their lives will be there to protect and love them and that those adults have been ordained by God to provide a safe, secure and supportive environment to grow and flourish.
In Houston, more and more children are being displaced from their homes without assurance that they will have a consistent place to lay their head. As neighborhoods change more and more substandard apartments are being torn down. This in of itself is not bad, but where will these families go. In other parts of town thousands of apartments are proposed to be built, but these projects are often unwelcome by the surrounding communities. And even if they are built the prices for these apartments are out of reach. Because of families not being able to find affordable housing rolling migration continues from one neighborhood to another. At the bottom of this rolling migration are the families of the poorest of poor. As a result children may move three and four times a year.
After I had said my “lay me down to sleep” prayer, I always did the blessing part of the prayer, which consisted of praying for my parents, my grandmother, the dog, friends and anyone else that I could think of to make the prayer stretch the time before the lights went out. I wonder, whether as an adult you and I could say the “lay me down to sleep” prayer and at the end, what children would we pray for that would awaken in the morning knowing they are safe, loved and secure?