“Daddy,” Richie whispered into the darkness. “Daddy, are you awake?” The bedroom was silent. “Daddy!” he whispered fiercely.
Dad awakened with a jump. The small figure in the darkness startled him. “Oh, Richie,” he said. “What’s the matter?”
“Daddy, I had a scary dream,” Richie said, his bottom lip trembling.
Dad got out of bed quietly so that he wouldn’t wake Mom. He took Richie’s hand and led him down the hall. After flipping the light on in Richie’s room, he sat down and lifted Richie onto his lap.
“Now, tell me about your dream. What scared you?” Richie told the dream to his dad. He felt safe and warm in his father’s arms.
“I can see why you were scared, Son. But it was just a dream. You’re safe, and Mom and I are just down the hall. Let’s say a little prayer so that you’ll feel better.”
Richie knelt next to his father and buried his eyes in his arms. He quietly asked Heavenly Father to keep him safe and to help him feel better.
When Richie finished his prayer, Dad got up and gave him another hug. Richie smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”
Dad tucked him into bed. “I love you, Richie. Good night.”
Richie snuggled into his covers and fell asleep.
A few days later Richie loaded up his pillow and sleeping bag into the backseat of the station wagon. He ran into the house. “Come on, Mom. It’s time!”
“Just a minute, honey.”
“Mom, Uncle Dave said five thirty, and it’s five twenty-seven now. Let’s go!”
“OK!” Mom smiled. “I think someone is excited about his first camping trip.”
Mom dropped Richie off at his cousins’ house and gave him a hug and kiss good-bye. “Now, be sure to tell Uncle Dave thank you for letting you join them. Dress warm tonight, and be careful.”
Richie waved good-bye, anxious to leave for the camp-out. Soon he and his cousins were traveling up the narrow road that wound through the green canyon. Once they reached the camping ground, they all worked together to set up the tent and build a fire.
Richie marveled at the green fir trees that reached up into the sky. The sky grew dark, and twinkling stars appeared. “I’ve never seen so many stars,” he told his cousin Todd. “It’s like I just took a pair of dark glasses off and can really see what’s in the sky.”
“You can see so many stars now because we’re away from the lights of the city,” Todd explained. “City lights usually drown out most of the stars.”
After a tinfoil dinner of hamburgers and potatoes, everyone gathered to sing around the fire while Uncle Dave played his guitar. The smell from the campfire clung to Richie’s sweatshirt. The soothing sound of the music and a full stomach made it difficult for him to stay awake. He had to fight to keep his eyes open.
“It looks like you are all having a hard time staying awake,” Uncle Dave said. “Let’s call it a night.”
“Come on, Richie, let’s hit the sack,” Todd called. Richie followed him and Douglas into the tent. He snuggled into his fluffy red sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep.
A few hours later Richie awoke with a start. He blinked to adjust his eyes to the darkness, then remembered that he wasn’t in his bedroom but in a tent. The only sound was the steady hum of the crickets outside. His stomach felt queasy as the dream he had just had came back to him. I wish I was home, he thought. I wish I was in my own bed and that I could go get Dad.
He looked around. No one else in the tent was awake. Richie shivered. He didn’t want to wake Todd or Douglas. They were older, and he didn’t want them to think he was a crybaby. Still, the gnawing in his stomach didn’t go away, and the darkness seemed to surround him.
Thoughts of black bears and hungry mountain lions with fiery eyes filled his mind and added to the fear he already felt from his dream. If Dad were here, we could …
Richie quietly pulled himself onto his knees. “Heavenly Father,” he whispered into the darkness, “please help me to not be afraid. …”
When he finished his prayer, he felt warm and safe. As he climbed back into his cozy sleeping bag, he thought, I’m so glad that even if Dad isn’t here, I have another Father who can help, a Father who is always just a prayer away.