God loves us no matter who we are or what we've done

The other afternoon at Nemo and Sissy's place, I got to hold little Mary.

She's so tiny, and I can't believe that just a year ago this weekend my grandson Will was born and was that little.

Now he's up and walking and beginning to say those first very important words.

Mary, who was wrapped up snug in her soft pink blanket, has very intense blue eyes and stared up at me as if to ask who in the world is this.

"I thought it was important for her to be around some folks besides just me," Amos said.

We were all sitting around in the front room taking turns holding her.

"OK," Gertrude Stein said to me. "You've had her long enough. Pass her to me."

"I pray to God that he helps me to be the best parent she could ever have wanted," said Amos. "I ain't gonna let nothing ever hurt her if I can help it."

"We can't protect them from every bump and bruise, or, as my husband Will used to say, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,'" said Anne Hathaway.

"I would rather those arrows stuck in me than in her," he said.

"So would we all," said Sissy.

"What will she call you?" Sappho asked Amos.

"I guess Daddy," he said. "Don't you think that would be all right?" He was looking at Sissy as he asked this.

"Of course," Sissy replied. "Or Father or Pop or Dad. Any of those will be the sweetest music to your ears."

Amos' brow furrowed. "But not Pa," he said. There was a note of bitterness in his voice.

"Wait a minute," Lit Turgy said. "Pa is what I call my father."

"But I bet your Pa wasn't like my Pa," said Amos.

"My turn," said Anne, holding out her arms to Gertrude.

"He was just about the sorriest man I ever knew," said Amos. His voice had become much lower, and there was a faraway look in his eyes. "The way he treated my mother ..." He paused and slowly shook his head. "And the beatings he gave all of us for no good reason at all."

He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Some might try to say he was the way he was because of alcohol, and that might have been true, but it don't excuse him one bit. He was meaner than a snake and twice as cruel."

He didn't say anything for a few moments, then a smile slowly formed on his face. "But, my mother ... Now she was everything and even more than a mother was supposed to be. Pa would beat the devil out of me. I mean, he'd kick and punch me when I got into trouble, but my mother wouldn't.

"I knew when I'd done wrong that I needed correcting. But not the way he did it. I was convinced that he hated me. Mama, though, even when I was real bad, and I knew how much what I had done grieved her, she would put her arms around me, and tell me she loved me. I knew that everybody else in this big wide world might hate me, but my mother would always love me no matter what. I don't think God could have loved me more."

He looked at little Mary in Anne's arms, and said, "That's the way I want to love her."

He looked at his watch and stood up. "Time to go," he said. "She needs to go down soon and I think she'll rest better in her own bed."

Amos slung the diaper bag over his shoulder, and took Mary in his huge hands and left.

For some time, we sat around talking about how good a job Amos was doing taking care of her, and wondering about how all of this was going to come out.

Then there was a knock at the door, and Nemo went to answer it. In a moment he was back. His face was completely drained of color.

"There are two policemen at the door," he said. "They want to know where Amos lives."

John Armistead is the Daily Journal religion editor.

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