Today is Community Day in my town. For Helen and Gerard, the foremost attraction of Community Day is the kid-sized climbing wall. A properly-trained kid will scale the wall by grasping the protrusions on its boulder-like surface, and then, when he loses his footing, dangle from a safety cable 12 feet above the ground gleefully yelling “Mommy! Look at me!” to a bug-eyed Mommy in spasm.
Also today, Vincent and Dominic, along with a pack of teen boys and one hardy dad, are going to a game reserve to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Limb-endangering sports and other forms of rowdy play will be the order of the day. There will also be swimming in the creek, whose water snakes are probably not the poisonous kind. And the guys will almost certainly remember to stay hydrated while cliff-hiking 500 feet above the Delaware River. Right? Right?
It’s on days like this that I pause to read the prayer that is taped to my kitchen cupboard. It’s the tender prayer of an Irish mother for the safety of her little boy. I first came across it twelve years ago, when I noticed a framed and illustrated copy on the wall of a friend’s house. The touching drawing pictured a mother watching her romping child – her “jewel” – from the doorway of her home. At that time, my own treasure consisted of seven jewels, the newest acquisition barely one year old. I’ve since been gifted with two more precious gems. Whenever a danger threatens any one of them – be it 7-year-old Gerard or 25-year-old Grace – I commend the child to God’s care with the poignant prayer of that Irish mother:
God keep my jewel this day from danger,
From tinker and pooka and black-hearted stranger
From harm of the water and hurt of the fire
From the horns of the cows going home to the byre
From teasing the ass when he’s tied to the manger
From stones that would bruise and from thorns of the briar
From evil red berries that waken desire
From hunting the gander and vexing the goat
From depths o’ seawater by Danny’s old boat
From cut and from tumble — from sickness and weeping
May God have my jewel this day in his keeping.
-Winifred M. Letts-