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Our Daily Bread

By Sharon Weinland Georges, as told to Judith Weinland Justice, from Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul: Second Dose

In this heart-warming story, a non-verbal teenage boy with autism finds the help he needs from his camp nurse.

Working as the camp nurse for multi-handicapped children brings an array of joys - and frustrations. Many of the children can't talk or communicate in any way. Days with these kids are "conversations" of crude hand gestures on the kids' parts, and educated guesses for the adults, as campers sue sign language to indicate they need to go to the bathroom, want something to eat, or are feeling pain.

Stan, a senior counselor, and I were in the infirmary one night after most of our happy campers were fast asleep. In walked two discouraged junior counselors with Tony, an autistic sixteen-year-old, who was obviously hurting and signing that he was in pain.

"Please take a look at him," one counselor begged. "Something's' really bothering him. He keeps signing 'pain' but we can't find anything wrong."

It's okay, Tony," I comforted, while Stan and I got him onto a cot. "I'll fix you up." But I failed. I did the usual exam: no fever, read throat, or excessive bug bites. Tony, with a tortured expression and soft moans, signed over and over, counting n me to relieve his hurt.

After one more unsuccessful attempt to diagnose, I ruled out anything serious. I stroked Tony's head. I'm sorry, fella, I just don't see the culprit. I wish you could tell me more." But I know from within his private world that was impossible.

Stan took one arm and I took the other to support Tony's unsteady gait, as we stepped out into a glorious night to take him back to his cabin.

Struggling to deal with Tony's upset and my own feelings of ineptness, I suggested the only thing I could think of.

"I know, guys, let's pray while we walk."

Stan started off in his booming voice, "Our Father …"

Immediately, Tony stopped. He placed his fingers, palm to palm, like praying hands, and his indistinguishable sounds became a singsong pattern resembling, "Who art in heaven …"

"Stan, he knows the Lord's Prayer. He knows! That's right, Tony, we'll pray the Lord's Prayer."

There under the brilliance of His stars, Stan and I repeated the Lord's Prayer. Tony's soft moans changed to a rhythmic monotone, the only way he could pray along.

When we said, "Give us this day our daily bread," I silently added, Please Lord, you know what we need. And as we arrived at "Amen," Tony unfolded his hands and reached down to his right heel.

By the glow of the moon, I removed Tony's brand-new tennis shoe to reveal a hug, raw blister. We took him back to the infirmary, where I applied soothing cream and a big fluffy bandage to ease his discomfort.

I stood in the doorway, watching a now serene Tony helped back to his cabin by Stan and another counselor. And I marveled that what four adults could not figure out, God had reached past the fog of a little boy's mind and made crystal clear.

This lovely story by Sharon Weinland Georges and Judith Weinland Justice is excerpted with permission from the inspiring book, Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul: Second Dose..

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