Monday, August 15, 2011

Unafraid, Yet Terrified

I wrote this on October 6, 2009 after a tough day volunteering at a family homeless shelter.
She stumbled into the room with frightened eyes. Three young children followed at her feet, somber and bewildered. She was high as a kite and couldn't walk straight, let alone think clearly. "I just don't know what to do anymore," she mumbled, coming to sit down in a chair. "I can't stay. I need a smoke. I can't stay in here." Trembling, she took her crying toddler by the hand and rushed out of the room, ignoring the pleas of my grandmother. "I need a smoke. I'll be back later. I can't take this right now."

Her other two children sat in silence, staring at me with forlorn expressions. I spoke to them with a huge smile on my face, pretending like nothing was wrong. Like their weeping mother hadn't just fled the room, leaving a trail of confusion behind her. Like there weren't any problems.

I try to make the class an escape for the kids, a place where they can go to laugh and play games and win prizes and have fun and learn about Jesus without having to think about the crappiness of life. For an hour out of the week, there are no problems.

My lesson was about how Jesus calmed the storm and how He could help them with tough stuff in life, just like He helped His disciples. Towards the end of the lesson, I said, "Raise your hand if you have ever been scared." My point was going to be that when you're scared, you can put your trust in Jesus and He will help you.

Everyone raised their hands, grinning sheepishly, except for the two children. "I don't get scared," the little girl said.

I smiled at her. "You NEVER get scared? I sure get scared sometimes."

"Well, I don't."

"Not even when you were little?"

"No. Never." She looked at me with defiance shining in her blue eyes, daring me to disagree.

"Wow, you must be really brave."

She nodded her head, completely serious. "I am."

Her younger brother peered at me through his bangs. "I don't get scared either."

I didn't press them any further. "Wow," I said. "These guys NEVER get scared. I've never heard of anyone who hasn''t ever been scared before." And then I went on with the lesson.

Later, we saw the mother outside, standing in the chilly autumn breeze. Terror was stretched across her face. "They're making us leave tomorrow," she said hoarsely. "I have to go back to hell."

We bid farewell to the mother and her children, watching as they stood close to each other, connected by a bond that only hard times could create. As I slid into my grandmother's car, we stared at each other for a moment, sharing a single thought, "Where else do they have to go?"

An abusive father? The streets? A crack house?

The mother is in a terrible situation. That's bad enough. But even worse, there are three little children caught up in the middle of their mother's problems. Who knows what they go through each day? Who knows what they see, what they hear, where they have to sleep at night?

The mother was on drugs. I realize that drugs aren't allowed in Faith City. But what about her kids? Where do her babies have to live after tomorrow? Who is there to look out for them when their world is crashing down around them?

"I'm not afraid." A protective wall was rigid in the little girl's eyes, separating her emotions from the world. She has no one but her two brothers and a mother who can't even walk straight. How can she rebound from problems that leave her drowning when nobody is offering her help?

As Christians in modern day America, how far do we need to go to protect these children? How long are we going to sit here and watch them take blow after blow after blow? How many blows can they bear until they shatter into a thousand pieces?

And why haven't we helped them before now? I can't help but wonder.

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