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“A Letter to August"

Billy Watkins
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Billy Watkins has been a writer at Mississippi newspapers for 37 years, including the past 30 at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. A 1975 graduate of the University of Mississippi, Watkins is the author of "Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes," which was selected by the BBC as one of the top 10 books ever written about the Apollo program. He and his wife, Susan, have three children and two grandchildren.


© January 15, 2012.  The Clarion-Ledger.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

The letter, printed in the handwriting of a child on white notebook paper, was mailed Dec. 29 in Jackson. It was addressed "To: God, Love: August" with a return address of "Heaven-Afterlife."


Somehow, it wound up in a batch of mail a few days later at The Clarion-Ledger. No one with the U.S. Post Office can explain how or why. The child writes "Why must my sister be sad?" and goes on to ask God to please help his or her sister. The Clarion-Ledger, with the help of features writer Billy Watkins, decided to respond with...


A Letter To August


Dear August,


You don't know me, but your letter to God wound up in my hands at The Clarion-Ledger, the newspaper here in Jackson.


Don't worry, August. God read your letter before it came to me. In fact, he read it the moment you wrote it. God is cool like that. He knows our thoughts, fears, needs and problems before we ever write them down or talk about them. But it is always good to ask for his help, whether it is through a letter or prayer. He tells us so in the Bible.


I don't know how old you are, August, but I want you to know that I think you are a very brave and caring person. Your sister is lucky to have you in her life.


You have a beautiful name, a special name. The dictionary says August means "revered holy person" and "worthy of being honored." The love and concern you display toward your sister in your letter makes me believe God had that name picked out for you even before you were born.


August, I know what it's like to watch a loved one be sad. When my daddy died a long time ago, my mother cried every day for months. She would cry in church or listening to the radio. And it seemed she always cried at night, just as my brother and I were getting ready to go to bed. I was 7 years old. I didn't know what to do. My heart hurt for her, and I was also dealing with my own sadness over losing my daddy.


I felt helpless. But I did two things: I prayed for God to please make her feel better, and I also hugged her every day and told her I loved her. Many years later, my mother said that even though she didn't tell me at the time, my hugs were like medicine to her because they came from someone who loved her deeply. I'm pretty sure your sister would feel the same way, even if she doesn't tell you right now. Hugs heal.


August, you are not alone. Even if they don't show it at school, a lot of the children you see every day are sad about something, too. I shared your letter with two people who talk with - and help- sad children every day: Ms. Anita Craft with Jackson Public Schools, and Mr. Ron Mumbower at First Baptist Church of Jackson. They were so impressed you cared enough about your sister to take the time to write God.


One thing they wanted me to assure you is that it's OK if you would like to talk to someone about your situation. I'm sure your school has people on staff that will listen to you and help you through this tough time. Whatever you say to them is private; no one else has to know. Or you can talk to any adult you respect and feel close to - maybe a parent, a grandparent or an aunt. Chances are they have been sad at some point in their lives, too, and can share with you how they got through it.


Ms. Craft and Mr. Mumbower also wanted me to tell you that it's OK to feel sad. "It's a normal, human emotion," Ms. Craft said. "And if we're never sad, then we never really know when we're happy."


August, I know this problem seems as big as a mountain right now. But trust me, in my lifetime I've seen God fix problems that seemed gigantic to me, too. He didn't always fix them the way I expected him to, or the way I wanted him to, or as soon as I would have liked. But he always, always answered my prayers in a way that he knew was best for me.


I'd like to share a couple of Bible verses with you - Philippians 4: 6-7. They say: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."


It might help to read that when you feel sad, and maybe share it with your sister.


I will be praying for you, August. I'm sure many of our readers will, too.


Your friend,


Billy Watkins

Features writer

The Clarion-Ledger

P.O. Box 40

Jackson, MS 39205


Printed in The Clarion-Ledger, January 15, 2012 (Jackson, MS)

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