The five-year-old stood just inside the edge of the woods wondering why
her parents couldn’t see her. She hadn’t wandered far from their campsite. The child was fascinated by a butterfly painted in bold colors darting from one bush to the next. She zealously chased the insect as it fluttered up and down and
sideways but all the while heading straight toward the woods that lined the back of campsite 222.
Ela was oblivious to the shouts, cries, and commotion that took place thirty
feet from her. Her world at that moment was swallowed up by the intriguing creature that led her away from her parents and their thirty-foot fifth-wheel camper. She giggled with glee as she zigzagged in the path the butterfly took,
her hands reaching out to touch its delicate wings.
“What’s wrong?” a man called out.
“Ela’s missing!” a woman shouted.
Ela stopped at the agonizing sound of her mother. She turned away from her playful pursuit. What was wrong? She could see them. They had to see her. She cocked her head and studied her mother who looked scared and was crying.
Her mother was talking at such a fast pace Ela couldn’t understand what she was saying.
“Elathea!” Her mother was staring straight at her but it was as if she was
Ela heard her full name and the panic in her mother’s voice. That’s when
she took two steps out of the woods and toward her parents and the camper.
“Ela!” her mother screamed and raced to the little girl. She picked her up
and hugged her so tight she thought her mother was going to squish the life out of her. “Where were you? How many times have we told you to never wander off? You should never leave our view.”
“Mama, I was right here.”
Ela felt hands touch her. Her father’s. She was finally able to pull away
from her mother’s tight grasp and noticed strangers standing around.
“Thank you. Thank you very much for helping us.” Her mother’s voice
Ela was confused. What did they help her mother with? What was all the
“Mama, why couldn’t you see me? I was right over there.” She pointed to
the spot where she was standing just inside the woods.
Her mother looked at her father.
“I didn’t see her,” he said adamantly. “I looked over there.”
She touched his arm. “I know you did. I didn’t see her either.” Her mother
smiled at Ela and then added in a whisper, “She doesn’t want to get in trouble for wandering off.”
Ela looked back and forth between her mother and father. It was the first
time she sensed that something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t a bad something.
maybe a little because her parents were upset that she was missing. But she
wasn’t, so Ela did the only thing a five-year-old could do: she promised her
parents she would never wander off again.
It was a promise she knew even at the tender age of five that she would not
be able to keep.
How can you keep a promise that was made because of something you didn’t