Jenny had been having a wonderful time, but now her cousins were going to play hide-and-seek, and they said that she couldn’t play with them.
“You’re too little,” Jason said. “You might get lost.”
“Yeah,” Lee agreed before he threw a ball into the air and Jason caught it. “My dad said that this mountain country is so big that a kid could get lost and might never be found.”
That did sound scary. “But somebody would find me,” Jenny insisted.
“Might not up here,” Lee said. “Nobody lives in this forest except animals.”
Jenny said stoutly, “I’m five years old, and that’s old enough not to get lost.”
But her cousins ran off without her.
Jenny walked to the picnic table and watched her mother and her aunts unpack food while the men started a fire. She heard Jason call, “I’ll be it! Don’t anybody get far from camp.”
Jason began to count. Jenny saw Ryan and Becca and the other cousins running to hide. She thought, I’ll hide too. They won’t know, so I’ll be the last one caught. Then they’ll let me play.
Jenny ran up a slope where tiny wild-flowers blossomed. Wood chips and brown pine needles muffled her footsteps. She saw a big tree to hide behind, but Stacy was already there.
Jenny ran on until she tripped over a rock and went rolling. She was afraid that she had made too much noise, so she listened, but nobody called her. She got up and looked around. I know, she thought. There are bushes in that little gully. I’ll hide over there.
When she reached the gully, Jenny saw the biggest tree that she had ever seen up ahead, so she climbed another slope and ran behind the tree. She leaned against it to catch her breath. Has Jason already called, “Ready or not, you shall be caught!” she wondered.
She waited for what seemed like a long time, but she never heard Jason. Jenny didn’t hear her other cousins, either. Everyone else has been found, she decided. Now I’ll run in and surprise them.
Laughing, Jenny ran toward where she thought the camp was. But she couldn’t see the big tree where Stacy had hidden. She couldn’t see anyone else, either.
Jenny stopped running. Her heart was pounding, partly because she had run so fast and partly because she was becoming frightened. She began to run in another direction. But soon she stopped again. Nothing looked familiar, yet everything looked the same. All the trees, all the bushes, all the green slopes looked just like all the other trees and bushes and slopes.
Jenny took a deep breath. I’m lost, she thought. I’m really lost. She started to cry, then stopped. Maybe her cousins were playing a trick on her because she had joined the game without their permission. They were probably hiding right now, watching her. They must be waiting for her to cry. Then they would all jump out and run in a circle around her.
But soon Jenny knew that her cousins weren’t hiding. She knew that she could not find the camp. She didn’t know which way to go. There were so many trees in the forest, and the forest was so very quiet!
Jenny started to cry again. She ran very fast. Twice she stumbled and fell. When she tripped again, Jenny didn’t get up. She turned over to lie on her back. She looked up.
Tops of towering spruce trees were far, far above her. The sky was a deep blue. Fluffy white clouds looked so close that Jenny thought that maybe they would drift right down to touch her. Then something soft did touch Jenny’s hand.
Slowly she turned her head. A wee brown chipmunk watched her, its black eyes like bright, tiny beads. As Jenny watched, the chipmunk skittered right up her arm. She hardly felt its little feet.
Jenny stayed very still. She thought, I’m not alone. There are friends in the forest. And my very special Friend is here.
How could she have forgotten that Heavenly Father would watch over her? She folded her arms, and the wee chipmunk ran away so fast that she saw only its bushy tail.
Jenny closed her eyes. She asked her Heavenly Father to please keep her safe until her daddy could find her.
Jenny started to stand up; then she stopped and listened. A voice seemed to come from somewhere, maybe from inside her head. She shut her eyes. What was she supposed to remember? Then it came to her. Daddy had given a lesson in family home evening about what children should do when they are lost.
“If you ever get lost,” he had told Jenny and her brothers, “don’t get so frightened that you just run and run. You would probably just get more lost than ever. Instead, stand very still. Look all around you. Find a tree that you think looks like the friendliest tree in the forest. Go to that tree and hug it. Stay right there. Hug your friendly tree and wait.”
Now Jenny looked around. Finally she saw a tree that looked about as big around as her father, but much taller. She ran to it. Her arms would not reach all the way around, but she put her cheek against the tree’s rough bark and hugged it as tightly as she could. “Heavenly Father,” she whispered, “help Daddy find me by my tree before it gets dark.”
Then Jenny began to call. “Daddy, I’m here!” She waited. Then she called again.
The sun went down, and Jenny began to shiver with cold. She was afraid of the dark too. She wanted to cry, but she hugged her tree instead. The tree stood straight and still as if to keep her safe. Jenny called again. “Daddy! I’m over here!” She waited a few moments and called again. And again.
Suddenly Jenny stood straighter. Had she heard something? Was that her father’s voice calling from far away?
“Jenny? Can you hear me? Jenny, where are you?”
“Over here, Daddy!” Jenny called as loudly as she could. “Over here, by my tree!”
A few moments later her father came running. He picked Jenny up and held her very tightly. Jenny cried, then laughed. Then Jenny hugged her father even more tightly than she had hugged her tree.