A Most Surprising Prayer


Sitting cross-legged on the mat, I close my eyes for evening prayer.  Tonight, the smallest child, just six, is to offer the blessing before carrying the puja (offering of devotion) to each person. Dinner of dahl, rice, vegetables and chapati will follow.

One of a handful of the 23 children in the home attending English-medium school, he offers tonight’s prayer in words I understand.   “Thank you for the beautiful day,” he says in a surprisingly strong, clear voice for one so young.  Warmth fills my body.  “That’s all?” one of the adults asks.  I open my eyes in time to watch him nod and grin, before holding the tray of flowers with the lit flame in front of each of us.

A Model of Gratitude

He’s 10 now and nearly 1,460 days have passed since he offered that simple prayer.  Half a world away, and countless blessings later, I doubt he even remembers that night.  However, in the four years that have passed, his words return to me daily — when I’m outside, in the company of dear ones, doing dishes, or just breathing.

His prayer is even more precious because I watched tears roll silently down his cheeks on so many occasions as he struggled to understand his first-grade math homework.  Sat quietly by as he drank a bitter ayurvedic mixture to ease the stomach pain that often made it impossible for him to keep food down and gain weight.

Embodying Joy

This tiny boy, who lived so joyfully with 23 other children in a home where each person was fed, clothed and sheltered on about $1.70 a day, is a role model of gratitude for me.   I see his small frame move toward the dishpan, watch his hands carefully scrub his metal plate and cup and put them up to dry.  I see his big smile as he runs to the short driveway to play with his “brothers and sisters” for a few minutes before bed.  “YES, THANK YOU, GOD, FOR THE BEAUTIFUL DAY.”

This post was inspired by a 2010 visit to www.maherashram.org.