Editor's note: The following prayer was shared by Trevor Barton at First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 30, 2012.
Loving God, help us throw our arms around each other, our community and our world as Maria threw her arms around me that day, Barton observes.
As my son, Zeke, says in his daily prayers, so I say in our prayer this morning, "Thank you for all of the good things in the world."
One of those good things happened to me when I stopped by the water company to pay my bill. I walked into the building and stopped at the receptionist's desk to borrow a pen to write the check.
I heard a family behind me and turned and saw a small child leading her mother by the hand, a mother carrying a baby in the cradle of her arm.
The child listened to her mother speak to her in Spanish, then looked at the receptionist and asked in English, "Can you show us where to pay our bill?"
Suddenly and surprisingly, the child looked up at me and threw her arms around me in a happy hug. "Mr. Barton!" she said. "I'm glad to see you, Mr. Barton!"
The child was a 7-year-old, second grade student at my school. Her name is Maria.
She is so small you can easily overlook her if you aren't looking for her. Her smile is broken because she is missing two teeth but it is warm and wonderful and softly bright like the light of the sun at dawn. Her eyes are earthy brown and full of friendship.
"Hey, Maria!" I said. "I'm so glad to see you, too."
She led her mom and baby brother on through the maze of poles and people and I lost them in the crowd.
But I found something in that moment with Maria that reminded me of words Oscar Romero spoke over the radio to his people in El Salvador a year before he was martyred for his service to the poor:
"How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work," he said. "That just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and that each metal-worker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand is performing a priestly office! How many cabdrivers I know are listening to this message there in their cabs ... You are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God – bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab."
So little Maria was a priest to me in the line at the water company that day.
Loving God, help us throw our arms around each other, our community and our world as Maria threw her arms around me that day. Help us love.
Hopeful God, help us see the world as Maria sees the world, as a place to help instead of a place to fear. Help us hope.
Faithful God, help us find you in those who seem to be the smallest and most forgotten ones around us, for you said you would be here with us in them. Help us have faith.
Trevor Barton teaches second grade and is a member of First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.