A Little Girl Named Marie

My first client as a professional counselor was a little girl named Marie. She was three-

 Jeffery in 1986

Jeffery in 1986

and-a-half years old. She was non-verbal and had not spoken a word since she was put into foster care. Both she and her six-year-old sister were being treated for gonorrhea. Both of their parents were in jail.

That was the fall of 1981. I was twenty-nine years old. I was a trained volunteer for The Center Against Sexual Assault. I had been taking regular shifts answering the 24-hour hotline..

Based on my undergraduate work as a research assistant and strong statistics background, the agency hired me as a data analyst for four hours per week at five dollars per hour.

Let me be clear.

This was not the work I planned on doing forever. I figured that if I could learn some counseling skills with that agency’s clientele, then I could probably handle just about any counseling situation that would come up in life.

My real goal was to get my Ph.D., go into Organizational Psychology, and make big bucks doing corporate work, solving interpersonal and group problems, helping big business function more efficiently.

Secondly, and more deeply important . . .

I thought this sexual assault organization might hold some insights or answers into my nagging dissatisfaction with my religious upbringing. I thought that if there was a God, and I was asking that question at that time in my life, then surely there would be something to discover in this fringe element of the counseling profession.

A few weeks after starting the job, a veteran therapist there, who knew I was in the Masters of Counseling Program, asked me if I would like to help her with the children’s play-therapy group.

I said that I would like to do that.

The therapist explained that the half-dozen children in the group were pre-school to second grade. There were two sisters just starting the group, ages 3-1/2 and 6. The foster parents of these two girls were very involved in the kids’ therapy and formed a good supportive family.

The lead therapist asked me to pay special attention to the littlest girl. She was going to need a lot of help. The other children we making progress at a reasonable pace.

Over those first three weeks I used what I learned in Early Childhood Development to build trust with Marie, making periodic eye contact, smiling, using a gentle voice, encouraging her to draw pictures and make choices. Session four, she was smiling back and engaging in some of the projects the other children were involved in. Then late in that session, there was a group sing along, and out of the blue, Marie joined in.

The first words I heard from Marie were in her singing a joyful sound. From there she grew by leaps and bounds.

The thing that drove the lesson home for me was a chance meeting two weeks later at a street fair in downtown Tempe. On a crowded sidewalk on a Saturday morning, I heard a little voice calling from behind me somewhere. I stopped and turned around, the crowd parted like the Red Sea. The little girl named Marie was running up the sidewalk calling out, “Mr. Kookendall, ( She had trouble pronouncing my name Kirkendall) Mr. Kookendall, Mr. Kookendall!” Her foster parents and sister were walking hand-in-hand behind her smiling at having surprised me.

I knelt down and greeted Marie. She gave me an appropriate hug. While I knelt at eye-to-eye level with Marie, we all talked for a while. Then I watched them walk away together Marie waving as she looked back.

My life changed that day forever.

Something Godly had happened, and I was a part of it.

I could not . . . I could not . . . I could not turn away.

For me, no work in the world could be more precious.

I was right. I worked saving children for 20 years.

It was this time of year thirty-four years ago that I met that little girl named Marie. I imagine her now in her late thirties, and I wish I could send her a letter.

Dear Marie,

Thank you . . where ever you are. . . Thank you Marie.

I pray that you are blessed with healthy children,

healthy grandchildren,

Jeffery in 2015

Jeffery in 2015

and that we both periodically pause

in our busy lives

to sing out

a joyful sound.



Mr. Kookendall

Co-authoring Adventures

ANNOUNCINGAuthor photos and more 016

2 pm / Saturday,

January 31st, 2015

Jeffery Kirkendall will speak

at the Peregrine Book Company

In Prescott, Arizona


Five writers present their adventures collaborating with a spouse, friend or sibling.  Hear the struggles, conflicts and laughter that each writer experience on the journey to complete a book.  One has to do with developing a transatlantic friendship.  Another is a coming of age experience.

The other authors share about soul-mates finding one another and sibling harmony.  These story tellers reveal how in co-authorship their stories and poetry exceeded what one could have accomplished alone



Country Frame of Mind

by Carol Jarvis

Carol with her beloved Redbone Joe, TN, mid-1990's

Carol with her beloved Redbone Joe, Tennessee, mid-1990’s

Hideouts in the woods, lilacs in the spring,
Wearing a cigar band, pretending it’s a ring.

Dogwood blossoms and cut-off britches,
Skinned up knees and willow tree switches

Cats-eye marbles and spinning tops
Chewing fresh rhubarb, skipping river rocks

The feel of fresh plowed dirt between my toes
Telephone lines with ravens in a row

The taste of apple cider, cooled in the creek
Playing “Kick-the-Can”, being “it” for “Hide-and-Seek”

Toting my treasures in a burlap sack
Planting by the moon and the Almanac

Dusty country roads with hardly any traffic
The caw of a crow considered a racket

Weathered old out-houses, wispy spiders webs
Day dreams on the porch swing, critters to be fed

Goo Goo bars and a lantern for a light
Bathing in a wash tub on Saturday night

Red Rooster snuff, Prince Albert in a can
Lonesome train whistles and the ice cream man

Church box suppers, braided rugs on the floor

Apple butter boiling, penny candy from the store

Drinking Hires Root Beer and “Dickson Shine”
The cotton mill whistle means it quitin’ time

Bamboo fishing poles, sinkers made of lead
A ‘52 Ford truck with a solid oak bed

Dresses made from feed sacks, dandelion wine
Ripley tomatoes, heavy on the vine

Archie comic books and grassless yards
Homemade brooms and baseball trading cards

Watermelon pickles and sassafras tea
Lightning bugs winking by the chinaberry tree

“Lydia Pinkham’s” and cod liver oil
“Buffalo Tonic” and peanuts to boil

Corn cob pipes, out behind the barn
“Cat’s in the Cradle” with a ball of yarn

Scolding bluejays and lonesome whip-o-wills
African violets on the windowsill

Evening birds are calling, their melancholy sound
Blends with the music of a redbone hound

Listening to the “Opry” every Saturday night
Saying our prayers by the moon’s full light

Another place, another time

Carol Ann, Merlin, Tennessee Autumn

Carol Ann, Merlin, Tennessee Autumn

Precious memories put me in

A Country Frame of Mind


c 1995 – C. Jarvis-Kirkendall