Today is a day that we celebrate love. Though we usually we think of romantic love, I thought I'd share a true story of love in action. This is a story you can share with your children.
First a little background...Several months after Ed's dad died, Cindy, a neighbor, sent each of the family members a letter sharing a story from her childhood in the 1960's. She began her letter with the verse below.
We had heard this story before, but when Ed's dad told the story, he had always minimized his role and focused on the wonder that God allowed him to hear the young girl's screams. I still can't read the account from Cindy's perspective without tears. I took Cindy's account and wrote the story for children and it was published in a children's periodical. I used the normal author's liberties of adding some fictional details. The publisher also asked that I add some safety advice. They did not want any children running into a burning barn.
“We're home, Mother,” said Cindy as she and Dennis threw their lunch boxes on the table.
“Good. Dad and Jay are getting home late tonight,” Mom said as she hung up her dish towel. “I want you both to help me with the evening chores. Go change your school clothes and put on your warm coats. It is growing colder.”
A few minutes later, Dennis headed to the barn to feed the cows. Cindy and Mother hurried to the chicken house.
“How was school today, Cindy?” Mother asked as she poured water in the chicken pans.
“It was okay. I got a good grade on my spelling test. And the parking lot was finally cleared of snow so we could go outside for recess.” Cindy placed an egg into the basket. “The third graders had recess with us second graders and I was on the same team as Dennis for prisoner's base—"
“What was that?” interrupted Mother. A scream sounded from outside. Mother and Cindy rushed out of the chicken house in time to see Dennis dash up with wide eyes.
“The barn is on fire!”
Mother whirled toward the barn. Smoke billowed out of the roof. “We need to call the fire company!”
All three began to run for the house, but at the sidewalk, Dennis paused. “Come on, Cindy! We've got to get the cows out!” Both children turned and ran toward the barn.
Beside the garage, Cindy stopped. She stared at the barn. Smoke now engulfed the top of the barn, and flames were beginning to shoot out the roof. Her feet froze to the ground.
But Dennis didn't hesitate. He bolted toward the burning barn. I've got to get the cows out of the barn. He shoved the door open to the lower level of the barn. Dad isn't here so it's up to me!
Cindy watched Dennis disappear into the barn. She heard herself screaming, “Help! Help! We need help!”
She didn't know how long she stood there screaming; it felt like hours. Why didn't the fire trucks come? And why didn't Dennis come out of the barn?
A truck roared down the lane. It skidded to a stop and out jumped a man. Cindy was relieved to recognize Mr. Martin, the neighbor from the farm down the road.
“Where are your dad and brothers?” he shouted.
“Dad isn't home. Dennis is in the barn,” wailed Cindy.
Mr. Martin ran into the barn and vanished from view.
The house door banged and Mother joined Cindy. “I finally got through to the fire company. I thought you children had followed me into the house. Where is Dennis?”
“In the barn,” choked Cindy. “Mr. Martin went to find him.” She hopped up and down, hugging her arms tightly. Was she shivering from cold or fear? Cindy and Mother stared at the barn door, their eyes smarting from the smoke, listening to the crackle of the flames.
They waited and prayed for Mr. Martin and Dennis to appear. With the top of the barn in flames, how soon would the lower barn fill with smoke?
Was that movement in the doorway? A horse appeared, then another. Four large horses trotted out with the cows behind them. Then Dennis and Mr. Martin stumbled into the barnyard.
“Chase the animals down the lane,” yelled Mr. Martin above the roar of the flames. “Pen them in the pasture so they'll be safe.”
Part way down the lane, they heard the fire truck sirens. The horses spooked, turned the entire herd around, and ran back toward the burning barn. The sky had become dark. The only light was the glow of the burning barn.
Mr. Martin and the children jumped up and down, yelling and shouting at the top of their lungs, but the horses kept running. When they were about twenty feet from the children, the horses skidded to a stop, turned on their heels, and chased the cows back down the lane. Dennis and Cindy followed the animals, closing the gate before running back to the house.
Dad soon arrived home to find the firemen hard at work. Though the barn was completely destroyed, all the animals survived and no one was harmed.
The next morning, the family sat around the breakfast table, sharing details about the fire.
“I'm glad you wanted to help, Dennis” Dad reached for a pancake. “But don't ever run into a burning barn again. It is much too dangerous. We can replace animals but not you!”
“Yeah. I guess I wasn't thinking,” said Dennis.
“I'm glad Mr. Martin lives close by,” said Cindy, “and that he came to help us.”
“How did he know to come?” asked Dennis. “I could never have gotten the cows out of the barn without his help.”
“He says he heard Cindy screaming,” Dad said. “He was in his barn and had just turned off the milking machines when he heard her screams. He looked out and saw the smoke. His barn is nearly half a mile away. I don't know how he heard her call for help—”
Dad looked around the table at his family, his eyes lingering on Dennis.