W. D. Ehrhart  

Suffer the Little Children

    Oh, how we wanted to be good.
We brought our nickels every week, our
pennies earned collecting bottles,
doing chores, and put them in the jar.
We were saving for a heifer

for a village in darkest Africa.
We didn't know where Africa was,
but lions and gorillas lived in Africa,
and Mrs. Kugler told us Jesus
loved the little children of the world,

and there were children in this village.
In slides that Mrs. Kugler showed,
the Africans were singing in a crude
bare church of grass and local timber
with a plain wooden cross for a steeple

while a missionary family beamed.
But the Africans were very poor,
their children needed milk, and only
we, the six-year-olds of Mrs. Kugler's
Sunday School class in Lewisburg in 1954,

could help them. We could save them.
We could buy a heifer for their village
if only we could fill the heifer jar.
But the jar was big, our coins so small,
and as the weeks and months passed by,

it seemed we'd never fill that jar.
We were six years old, the fate of Africa
was in our hands, the weight of it so heavy,
but we didn't want to disappoint
our teacher, or the Africans, or Jesus.
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    Copyright © 1999 by W. D. Ehrhart
Beautiful Wreckage, New & Selected Poems, Adastra Press, 1999
This poem currently published in Beautiful Wreckage, New & Selected Poems, Adastra Press, 1999

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