Simon is the first in his family to go to college. It’s his moment, and he doesn’t want to blow it.
Some would say Simon had a challenging upbringing. But Simon would argue with that. He and his Mom are alone with no biological family nearby, but Simon is never alone, and he has quite a large “family” who loves him.
Simon is what you’d call a library kid.
After school, Simon walks to the public library and waits for his mother to pick him up when she finishes working. You’ll find Simon at the library on Saturdays and school holidays too.
The library staff “adopted” their little visitor, and Simon enjoys the company of his “aunts and uncles” who adore him.
His friends are from his library family too. He has a group of kids around his age who hang out at the library. They all share a love for reading, playtime, and participating in children’s programs, which are plentiful at the Vernon Oaks Branch of the Chicago public library.
On Sundays, Simon and his mother Charlotte go to church. The preacher is a friend and mentor to their small family of two.
One Sunday, Reverend Laura takes Simon aside.
“I’d like you to join a new prayer group that’s forming.”
Simon asks his Mom, and with a nod of her head, Simon’s life is about to change forever.
The first change is his schedule.
Every Wednesday after school, he walks over to the church instead of the library. The first thing he does when he gets there is to settle in and do his homework. He chooses different quiet spots in the building, taking his time to decide where he will study that week. It’s an adventure exploring the old church, and he is soon as comfortable in every nook and cranny at Vernon Oaks Methodist as he is at the Vernon Oaks library.
He feels blessed to have another home away from home.
After his schoolwork is complete, he spends the last hour helping out at the daycare center in the church basement. His job is to serve supper to the little ones in the extended care program. He serves the children, and after that, he eats and enjoys a hot meal. It’s almost time to head over to the chapel.
The prayer group is the highlight of his busy week. He looks forward to the stillness of praying in community.
Reverend Laura assembles a diverse group of congregants for the Wednesday night prayer session. There are young people like Simon, Mom and Dad age people, and old folks who become the grandparents Simon never knew.
Everyone loves Simon, and Simon loves everyone – unconditionally.
6:00 is light socializing: greetings, quiet chit-chatting, and the activity of members finding their accustomed place in the prayer circle. 6:10 is praise reports, and following that is prayer requests. A holy hush fills the chapel, and all twenty or so people in the room begin to pray silently.
It’s a most awe-inspiring experience. God and His angels seem to fill the room. Some swear they can hear the swoosh of angel wings; others say they feel it. All know, without a doubt, God is in the chapel of Vernon Oaks Methodist.
It’s a big night for Simon. For the first time in the six years (plus) since he joined the group, Simon has both a praise report and prayer request. He’s positively squirming with nervous energy.
Praise report: Marquette University sent Simon an acceptance letter. Classes start in August. It’s a full ride, tuition, books, fees, room and board. He even has a part-time job lined up to cover his living expenses. Praise God! God is good.
Reverend Laura, discreetly wipes the tears from her eyes. Others are more obvious, but none let sloppy emotions disrupt the sacred moment. Hallelujah! Praise reports continue.
Next up, prayer requests. You may find this hard to believe. But, in all the time Simon has been a member of this prayer group; he has never had a personal prayer request for himself. Even when he was applying to colleges or taking exams, Simon always had deeply rooted faith and saw no need for self-centered prayers. It has always been others-focused prayers for Simon. Until now.
He began. “I have a need.” Everyone leaned forward. “The Vernon Oaks library is where I study, do research, and write papers,” he continues after a breathless pause “…on their computers.” He explains he’ll need his own laptop for school, and he would appreciate prayers that God will provide.
“Grandpa” Jack Barry catches up with Simon as he’s leaving the church that night. “Come by my house tomorrow. I have a computer for you.
The next day, Simon is on Jack’s front step ringing the doorbell. Jack ushers him in through the front room to a back bedroom, which had long ago been converted to a home office. Simon guesses the computer sitting on the desk is an original IBM model circa 1985-ish, floppy disk and all.
Simon carefully explains to Jack the advances in computers and delicately tells him, this computer won’t fit his needs. “Sure, sure,” says Jack “I get it, you need something newer.” They visit for a while, and Simon says goodbye, “See you next week.”
The following Wednesday evening, as everyone is getting settled and waiting for the prayer group to begin, Jack tells the story of his clueless offer to give Simon his old computer. There are a few knowing chuckles.
When prayer request rolls around, Simon once again shares his prayer request for a computer. This time with a few more details. “I guess I should have been more specific.” There are more chuckles, and they begin to pray.
As a rule, personal prayer requests are made in confidence. But, Reverend Laura asks Simon if he would mind if she shared his request with a few select people she knows who might be able to help. Simon gives the go-ahead. It never hurts to provide God with a little outside help when it comes to an answered prayer.
One of the people Reverend Laura contacts sends over a brand new Apple MacBook Pro. The laptop is a thing of beauty. Sleek lines, spectacular lighted silver keyboard. It even comes with a black sleeve and carrying case with a shoulder strap. Simon is set.
Generosity and gratitude go hand in hand. As a giver, the woman who donated the MacBook was not only generous; she was grateful for the opportunity to help. When Simon received the gift, he was grateful that he could go to college equipped and prepared for success. And he is generous too. His praise for God reaches new heights.
All this good for the sake of technology, and none of it comes from an internet “fund me” campaign, television talk show host, or a social media campaign.
Praise God! Even with all the noise in these complicated times, a simple prayer from a humble petitioner can make it’s way to God and be answered.