His eyes were no longer a shield to his soul and I could see him. He’s a short kid but he seemed almost tiny as he stood in front of me with eyes that spoke more of fear and uncertainty than gritty bravado. His face, which was usually set with rectangular force, appeared as full as a toddler’s, as he uncharacteristically and politely pleaded entrance into the barbeque. My first inclination was to turn him away; this wasn’t a barbeque for all the local kids, and besides, he had seemed through with us for quite some time. But as I talked to him on the steps of World Impact about summer and paintballing, my eyes stung and my chest ached at what a child he is. This kid wears the label “Lost Cause” around his neck every day like a weight—his circumstances having thrust him into very adult things; his choices having given him a bad reputation in the neighborhood. A heavy burden for a young boy to bear.
Not wanting to miss a moment of his childhood, I invited him in for a plate of food. Walking down the street his minus five foot frame glares large confidence, but here, walking beside me down the hall, was a timid boy. I tried my best to do with my words what I could not do with my arms and envelop him in a strong and loving embrace. This kid has a history with World Impact, but I wanted him to know he was still welcome here. When we reached the line of food I expected him to grab his food and leave, but Andrew and I almost had to coax him down the line, adding cookies and chicken wings to his unassuming claim of one hot dog and a tiny puddle of pork and beans.
He didn’t respond to the words that kept tumbling out of our mouths. All the while he continued to look lost and timid but we didn’t stop. We loaded his plate and filled his ears and when there seemed nothing else we could get for him Andrew accompanied him on his way outside.
I am almost certain that the next time I see him in the neighborhood he will feign ignorance of me. He will probably be frustratingly brash and be in the company of other “tough” young men. But whether or not he knows it, I see him, because we shared a moment of his childhood, and I pray that even as he stuffs that experience so that he can survive in a man’s world, his heart will remember a safe place and loving words. I pray that he will have for a moment experienced something akin to freedom before he walked back out under the bondage of his label. I pray that this child’s heart comes to know that in Christ he is neither lost, nor a lost cause.