May Li’s Family Prayer

(Based on a true incident)
Seek peace, and pursue it (Ps. 34:14).

May Li walked home from school with her friend. The Taipei, Taiwan (China), sidewalk was crowded with people. Trucks, cars, and scooters roared past them. May Li was happy when she saw her building. She was tired and hungry. “Good-bye, Ling Ling,” she said. “I have to help my mother prepare dinner and then get my schoolwork done.”

“Ummm …” Ling Ling looked down as she started to speak. “Do you think I could come and help? You know I can chop fast, and I like to help.”

May Li was puzzled. Why did her friend always want to help fix dinner? This was the second time this week that Ling Ling had asked to help. And she had helped at least twice the week before. Each time Ling Ling helped, May Li’s mother invited her to stay for dinner.

May Li ran up the steps to her home, motioning for Ling Ling to follow her. “Come on,” she replied. “We’ll ask my mother if you can stay.”

Ling Ling jumped two steps at a time. She almost beat May Li to the top step. “Hsieh-hsieh (Thank you). I hope your mother says I may stay.”

May Li’s mind was filled with worries as they burst through the doorway to her home. She liked to have Ling Ling stay for dinner, but she worried that her parents might not like having her come so often. Most of all, she worried about Ling Ling. Maybe her friend didn’t get enough to eat at her own home.

“I’m home!” May Li called. “Ling Ling is with me. She wants to help prepare dinner.”

May Li’s mother greeted the girls with a happy smile. “It is nice to have a friend who likes to share your work. And you are welcome to stay for dinner, Ling Ling.”

Ling Ling jumped and clapped her hands. “Hsieh-hsieh! I would love to stay for dinner.”

“You should call your mother,” May Li said, “to make certain it’s all right with her.”

Ling Ling’s happy smile went away. “Yes, I need to call. Last time I stayed here for dinner, Mother was not very happy. She says that I stay too often.”

While Ling Ling went into the next room to call, May Li talked quietly to her mother. “I hope it is all right to bring Ling Ling home for dinner again. She likes to come here so much. I will eat less if we do not have enough.”

“I am not concerned about the food,” Mother said. “We are happy to share what we have. But I am beginning to wonder if Ling Ling is not getting enough food at home.”

“I know. I have wondered that also.”

May Li looked at the delicious vegetables soaking in the sink, and at the fish and pork ready to be fried. “Maybe Ling Ling only gets rice to eat—maybe she doesn’t even get enough rice!”

May Li wondered what to do, but before she could say any more, she heard Ling Ling hang up the telephone. May Li began to chop the vegetables. Chop, chop, chop. Quickly the mushrooms became many small pieces.

“Guess what?” Ling Ling exclaimed. “I can stay! What would you like me to chop?”

May Li and Ling Ling chopped cabbage, green peppers, and green onions. They laughed and giggled as they set rice bowls and kuaidze (chopsticks) on the table.

Dinner was almost ready by the time May Li’s father came home. He greeted everyone when he came in the door. May Li felt better. She knew that father would know what to do if Ling Ling’s family did not have enough food.

When dinner was ready, May Li’s father invited everyone to kneel for the prayer. He knelt beside his chair. “May Li, would you say the family prayer tonight? And be sure to remember all of our friends and their families.”

Of course! That was the answer! May Li knew that Heavenly Father loved Ling Ling’s family as much as He loved hers. She knew that He would answer her prayer and bless them. As she prayed, she thanked Heavenly Father for having Ling Ling in their home, and she asked a special blessing for Ling Ling’s family—that they would always have enough food to eat. When the prayer was over, everyone sat up to the table and started to eat.

Hsieh-hsieh for that nice prayer,” said Ling Ling, “and for including my family.”

May Li looked at her rice bowl. “You’re welcome,” she said. “I hope your family always has enough food to eat.”

“Oh, we do,” Ling Ling said. “And my mother is a wonderful cook.”

“But, I thought …” May Li had a difficult time coming up with the right words. “I thought you didn’t have enough food to eat and that is why you like to come and eat at my house so often.”

Ling Ling looked down and stirred the rice in her bowl. “No, it isn’t the food at your house,” she said. “It is the prayer. I feel good inside when I kneel with your family to pray. I wish my family did that.” She paused, then added, “My mother said to invite you over to our house for dinner. If you come, I will ask my parents if we can have family prayer because you are there and it is your family tradition. Will you help me say the prayer if my parents agree?”

May Li and her parents looked at each other with surprise. May Li smiled. “I would love to go to your house for dinner,” she said. “I will help you chop vegetables. And I will be happy to help you say the family prayer. Hsieh-hsieh for asking me.”

[photos and illustrations] Illustrated by Sherry Thompson