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A Prayer for Children

We pray for children
 who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers
from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street
in anew pair of sneakers,
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places
we wouldn't be caught dead in,
who never saw a circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses
and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry
and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no security blanket
to drag behind them,
who watch their parents
watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anyone's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store
and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove their dirty clothes
 under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed
 in front of the car pool,
who squirm in church or temple
 and scream into the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh
at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those whose nightmares
 come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry
 and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move,
but have no being.

We pray for children
who want to be carried,
and for those who must be.
For those we never give up on
and for those
 who never get a second chance.
For those we smother
and for those who will grab the hand
of anybody kind enough to offer it.

-Ina J. Hughes
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