By the Hand

By the Hand

A First Thing

It’s the image in my mind when I awaken, these days. A small child, perhaps age three, sits in the corner and listens. Bigger people are talking about some fantastic destination:

Maybe a tropical beach.

Maybe the zoo.

Maybe Disneyland.

The child–let’s say a boy, with blue eyes and straw hair–sits and listens in wonder. Can there be such a thing as a place created for joy?

He ponders.

Now the adults are gathering their things. Coats. Hats. Pocketbooks. Keys to lock the door.

(Or to unlock it?) 

The child picks up a Matchbox car–a 1972 El Camino, in case it matters, metallic green like a summer beetle–and pushes it around one loop, then another, tracing a figure eight on the wooden floor.

It’s a sideways figure eight. Like the symbol for infinity. 

As he pushes the metallic green El Camino he wonders, though he doesn’t yet have the words for the wondering, whether infinity and eternity are the same. Decades later he will recall the ghost of this wondering.

It will provoke a smile. 

The adults are moving to the door. An older girl goes with them. The boy begins to weep as they file out, headed for the place created for joy.  Tears burn his cheeks, slipping toward the jumping-off point of his chin.

And then, one of the big people turns to him. Leans down.

Extends a hand. 

Speaks: Well, aren’t you coming, too?

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
24 With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Psalm 73:23-26 (NASB)



  1. This beautifully rendered story–love the figure 8, infinity thing–makes me think about the differences in perception between kids and adults. How kids see things vs. how adults see things. You need both to get the whole story, even in the places where both are wrong.

  2. Oooh, I love this, Sheila. Really different kind of writing from you – and I love it a lot. And Megan’s comment, too. And that quote? FAB. So glad you got up and wrote this one out, my friend. It’s making me think.

  3. I’ve read this several times. Beautiful. And I love the green-like-a-summer-beetle car. I had to look up infinity and eternity, and then I was reminded of this poem by William Blake:

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour.

    • Thank you, Sandra.

      And that somehow, through however many twists, something I wrote led you to recall William Blake? I can die happy now.

      Remind me, next time I am with you, to tell you the story of the day I met Allen Ginsberg.

  4. This is seriously cool Sheila. Glad you wrote it out. Wonder if it’s a piece of a larger story or a complete glimpse God gave you to get you thinking–and to get those of us who read it thinking.

    Love the detail.

  5. wow. and I love the picture of the little one. such imagery and such good writing. good job.

  6. Yes, this is powerful, and it did matter that it was a 1972 El Camino, and you carried it through so that it was forming that figure 8. Thank you for letting us just live with the story instead of trying to unpack it. You told it beautifully and let us chew on it. This will linger in my mind and heart for a long, long time. Maybe for eternity. 🙂

  7. Power indeed lives in story; the manner of the telling of the tale is also important. This? Beautiful. Picture? Perfect. Down to the details – I am that child. And the adult. And the fly on the wall observer of all. Good work Sheila!


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