December 14, 2017

A Child’s Poem Inspires My Prayer for the Mountains

Recently in a used book store, I came across a small volume entitled Chrysalis by Harry Behn. Although the book had a worn and yellowed jacket, its subject matter – children and poetry – and a quick thumb-through convinced me to purchase it to read for myself and share with a friend. It has a number of delightful stories and insights, but one particularly stuck with me. Behn tells of working with a group of children in which one little boy shares this poem:

Did you think
about the mountain?
Did you think?
Did you see it today
or some other day
in another way?

As a poet, I love that the first line of the poem breaks after the word think, putting a bit of extra emphasis on that word. Think. As a seeker, I’m reminded that “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

The Smoky Mountains are protected, but many mountains throughout Tennessee and Appalachia are not. Image © Kateleigh | Dreamstime.com.

For many Tennessee residents, myself included, it’s very easy to not think about the mountain because we don’t see the mountain on a daily basis. We live where the land is flat, or at best has some low, rolling hills. The mountain doesn’t make much news, except perhaps when the autumn leaves are at their peak or winter weather has closed parts of the national park. And the mountain that’s not in the park, the mountain that’s behind a few more mountains, being leveled – or under threat of  being leveled – for a thin seam of coal? That mountain is even more out of sight, out of mind.

It’s a truth I’m sorry to admit, and I’m especially convicted when this child’s simple poem asks for a second time, “Did you think?” But it’s a truth that can be changed if we heed the words this unnamed child wrote over 60 years ago, and it inspired me to this prayer I wrote for LEAF’s 40 Days of Prayer for the Mountains.

I hope you’ll join me in praying for and thinking about the mountains.

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