Written by: Barbara Ann Hall
of the summer’s day was refreshed with a cool breeze that blew in from the north. I sat down on a black metal bench
out front of the little country courthouse and watched the townspeople flutter about. The place was unfamiliar to me. Quaint
storefronts lined cobblestone sidewalks and the leaves of huge oak trees danced about on the wind. I felt a calm that only
such a place could bring.
I bowed my head to pray, “Thank you Father for leading me here today. When our
journey began I was so unsure of the unfamiliar roads we traveled. They seemed so long and out of place. But, I’m glad
that you gave me the courage to press on. Please keep my senses sharp so that I am able to know what my purpose is here when
you reveal it to me. I trust that you will guide my steps and keep a protective hand upon me at all times. I believe in you
Father... your will, not mine be done. Amen.”
When I lifted my head I noticed a pleasant looking gentleman
sitting on a bench across the walkway facing me. He wore dark blue work pants and a light blue work shirt. The name Harold
was embroidered on a patch over his front right shirt pocket. He appeared a tall man with thick curly hair and wore large
plastic framed glasses. His legs were outstretched and casually crossed at the tops of his darkly colored work boots. He was
reading a book between frequent glances about the area.
I sat watching Harold for what seemed like hours as he
flipped through the pages of his book one by one, lifting his head to glance around at least three to four times per page.
I was getting a bit tired, but was intrigued with Harold, so I readjusted my sitting position and settled in for as long as
he might sit there.
A cool breeze blew gently though my hair, which provided a sense of renewal and uplifted my
spirit. Then an overwhelming peace filled my heart. I knew all too well that feeling, as if God was whispering ever so softly
to my heart.
“Okay Father,” I prayed silently, “what’s up with Harold?” Just
then, Harold took off his glasses, laid his book down on his lap, and rubbed his eyes. Looking up he blinked several times,
as if trying to bring me into focus. He smiled and said, “Hey.” I smiled and greeted him back.
been sittin’ there long?” Harold asked. “Feels like a long time.” I told him. “Did ya happen
to see a big black goofy lookin’ dog walk by?” “No, I hadn’t noticed one.” I said shaking my
head. Harold sighed. “Did you lose your dog?” I asked him with concern. “Yeah,” he said with sadness
in his voice before looking around again. “I’m sorry. Did you lose him around here?” I asked. “Yeah.
Right here.” Harold said pointing to the armrest of his bench, “I tied him to this here bench and went inside
for a minute, maybe two I reckon, and when I come out he was gone. He’s usually real good at findin’ his way home,
but he ain’t done it yet. So I’m sittin’ here waitin’ on him to come back to me. The big goof!”
Harold told me that with tear filled eyes.
“How long has he been missing?” I asked, sounding to myself
like a lost dog detective. Harold thought for a moment before responding. “One year, two month, three days and…”
Harold paused and glanced down at his watch before summing it up, “45 minutes.” Then he looked around again, as
if expecting the dog to suddenly appear out of nowhere.
That’s when my suspicion was confirmed. Although
Harold looked like a normal middle-aged man, there was something a little off with his thinking. He portrayed himself more
as a child than a grown man. But nevertheless, he was interesting and even somewhat charming.
his name?” I asked Harold. “Excuse me?” he responded as if we hadn’t already spoken. “What’s
your dog’s name?” I asked again.” Oh yeah, my dog. His name’s Shadow.” “May I help you
look for him?” I offered. “You’d help me look for Shadow?” Harold asked surprised. “No one’s
ever helped me look for him before. They just laugh at me.” I told Harold I was truly sorry that people weren’t
more understanding and that I much wanted to help him look for his dog.
“Okay then! You look that way!”
Harold said excitedly, pointing in the direction I was facing, “And me, I’ll look this way!” He said pointing
in the opposite direction. “If you see him, be sure to holler SHADOW! And if I see him, I’ll be sure to holler
SHADOW! Okay?” I agreed, which brought a broad smile to Harold’s face.
As we sat at our posts, I introduced
myself as Barbara. Harold pointed to the name embroidered on his shirt and said, “I’m Harold.” I smiled
and told him I had a hunch he might be.
“How long do you suppose we should wait?” I asked Harold. “Until Shadow
comes back.” he said without hesitation. I waited a few moments before asking him if he thought Shadow would come
back that night. And Harold, who I perceived to be a bit slow witted, gave an answer that made me feel silly for even thinking
such a question, let alone asking it. “If I didn’t think he’d come back, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Of course he wouldn’t. Then why was I?
“Father, please help me know what I need to do about this
situation. I want to believe that Shadow will come back, but he’s been missing for such a long time. I know you
want me to help Harold, but I myself don’t know how. Am I here to look for a dog or to help Harold understand that Shadow
will not be coming home? Please Father, bless me with your wisdom.”
I told Harold that he had great faith
to believe that Shadow was going to come back home after being away for such a long time. Harold looked at me solemnly and
asked, “You don’t believe he will, do ya?” I was uncertain of what to say. I hesitated. Harold stared at
me intently. I did not have the heart to tell him what I truly felt, but also did not want to encourage false hope. I began
to feel a slight sense of panic! “Jesus!” I called silently. Just then, a great calm settled in my spirit. I felt
the Holy Ghost bless me with the wisdom I had prayed for earlier, and I instantly found words to say. “Harold, I believe
we should have faith in all good things hoped for. I believe our faith should be unmoved and our hope in God sincere. And,
if it be His will, our efforts shall not be in vain.”
“I believe in God.” Harold said seriously.
“When I was a little boy, my maw and paw went to live with Him in Heaven. It made me sad they wasn’t here with
me no more and I waited every day for them to come home too. But then my aunt told me that they moved to a beautiful place
to live with God and wouldn’t want to come back to be with me even if they could. So I didn’t wait no more, because
I knew they was more happy there with God than here with me. But Shadow, he would want to be here with me. The big goof! That’s
why I have to be here when he comes back. I don’t want him to think I would leave him here alone or that I don’t
love him no more.”
It was hard to hold back the tears that filled my eyes, but I took a deep breath and asked
Harold, “Do you ever ask God to help you find Shadow?” “Everyday,” Harold said. “I ask God everyday
to bring Shadow home. If Shadow ain’t at home when I wake up, I put fresh food and water on the back porch
before I leave for work because I know he’d wait for me there. After work, if he ain’t there, I come and wait
for him here.”
“How about we pray together?” I offered Harold. “God likes it when
people pray together.” I told him. “Yeah! That might could work!” Harold exclaimed. “God will listen
to you Barbara! You are more better than I am.”
I was quick to assure Harold that God did not consider me
any better than him. “We are both his children. He loves us both the same.” I explained to Harold. “God
creates everyone differently, each uniquely, to fulfill different purposes in life. But I’m certain that He does not
create any one better than any other.” Harold’s eyes filled with a look of bewilderment and uncertainty and for
several moments he just stared at me as if trying to comprehend what I had just said. Then finally, he said. “I believe
you Barbara. That’s not what my aunt told me, but I believe you because it’s what my heart tells me to believe.”
“Thank you Harold. I’m glad that’s what your heart tells you, because it’s true. I’m
not sure what your aunt may have told you, but I assure you that God loves you just as much as He does anyone else.”
“May we pray now?” Harold asked. “Yes, let’s pray! I think you should lead the prayer Harold.
After all, Shadow is your dog.” “Okay then.” Harold said taking a deep breath, as if preparing himself
for a great undertaking. “Dear God. Please bring Shadow home. Amen.” In my heart, I agreed with Harold’s
request and confirmed his, “Amen”.
Then Harold looked at me as if searching for approval. “That
was perfect Harold.” I reassured him. “You really think so? You really think God heard me?” “Of course
He heard you. Do you have doubt?” “A little I guess.” Harold said shrugging his shoulders. I asked him why.
“Because God ain’t brought Shadow home yet.” Harold reasoned, barely above a whisper.
me remind you Harold, that although you say you may have a little doubt, you have never shown it by your actions and God recognizes
that. You have remained diligent in your belief that God will answer your prayer by waiting here for Shadow everyday.
You have shown a much greater faith then anyone I have ever met!” Harold just smiled. I explained to Harold that sometimes
God may not always answer our prayers when we want Him too, or the way we want Him to, and we may not always understand why,
but that God always knows best. “I know.” Harold said.
After our prayer we once again took our posts
and silently sat watch, waiting for Shadow to return. As I sat, my spirit filled with hope as I continued to pray over
and over, “Father, if at all possible, please let Shadow come home tonight. Father, if at all possible, please
let Shadow come home tonight. Father, if at all possible, please let Shadow come home tonight.” When finally
my mind rested, I felt God whisper to my spirit, “I heard your every prayer Barbara.” I laughed to myself, as
I realized that I must have prayed that simple little prayer about a hundred times over! I suddenly felt like a spoiled child
who thinks she can gain ground by asking for something she wants many times beyond not receiving it upon her first request.
“I’m sorry Father, thank you for hearing me.” I said out loud.
After Harold stood up and sat
down several times, he said, “It’s getting late, maybe we should go home now.” “I think
we should wait just a little while longer,” I encouraged Harold, “just in case God is still looking for Shadow”.
Harold agreed and again repositioned himself on the bench.
After a few moments, Harold asked, “Barbara,
do you think that Shadow went to live with God and that he is more happy there with Him than here with me?” I told
Harold that it was possible that Shadow could have went to live with God, but that did not mean that he wasn’t
happy here with him. “I know.” Harold said.
As we got up to leave, I thought I heard a dog bark. I
looked at Harold, but it did not appear he heard it. “Harold, listen I said.” Again I heard a dog bark, but Harold
appeared to hear nothing. “Don’t you hear that?” I asked him. “Hear what?” He asked confused.
“I thought I just heard a dog bark!” Harold listened intently, “I hear it too! I hear it!” he exclaimed.
Just then, a big black, goofy looking dog came galloping out from behind the courthouse and jumped directly into Harold’s
lap! “SHADOW! SHADOW!” Harold yelled as he pet and hugged the dog, while Shadow lavished him with long, wet sloppy
kisses! “Ah stop that ya big goof!” Harold laughed, and I could hardly contain my joy! For I believed I had just
witnessed nothing short of a miracle!
Harold smiled from ear to ear as he exclaimed, “It’s Shadow!
It’s Shadow! He’s home! He’s home! We did it! We did it!” “You did it Harold!” I told
him. “Your strong example of faith, your daily diligence in all good things hoped for, and your love for Shadow! You
did it! You and God! God’s smiling upon you! God loves you so much Harold, and He loves the things that you love. He
loves Shadow because you love Shadow. He kept him safe in the palm of His hand and honored your prayers to lead him home!”
Harold looked so happy. “Thank you Jesus! Thank you for lovin’ me and thank you for lovin’ Shadow!”
With eyes full of happy tears, I gave Harold a gentle hug and patted Shadow on the head before they disappeared
into the night. A moment later, I heard an echo out of the darkness, “Thank you too Barbara!” which made my heart
smile. “You’re welcome Harold! You too Shadow! Praise God!” I called back. Then I heard Shadow bark
one last time.
I went and sat back down on my bench, still marveling over what had just taken place. Overwhelming
joy still filled my heart and I could not contain my appreciation for God and the simple miracle He blessed us all with
that night. I would never forget Harold and the living example of faith that he was. I could not imagine ever having another
opportunity to witness any greater. And I thought about Shadow, who was all the big goof that Harold called him, and I shall
never forget the joy he brought to my heart.
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