Monday, October 20, 2008


Every morning I see him. I'm usually only about three blocks from work, but there he is. I would guess he is probably in the sixth grade because he is walking toward the local middle school. He could be in seventh, but if he is he is small for his age. Lately, his face is barely visible with his hooded jacket pulled up over his head....the draw string pulled tightly so that a circle of cloth covers most of his face. His too long jacket sleeves hang down over his hands, probably a blessing on the cold mornings as he walks to school. I've observed him now for nearly a year. As I look upon this young man...still only a boy, I see glimpses of myself.

He appears to be lonely. Just the other day, my heart ached for him as I watched him run up the street to catch up with another boy walking to school. The other boy appeared older, at least six inches taller. It was like the young boy wanted to be belong to a group, even if it was only a group of two. In my heart, I was hoping that I would see the two of them walking down the street in the morning...talking...laughing...doing the things young boys should be doing at that age. But the next day, and every day since, the young boys walks alone.

On those morning when I take the short cut and drive up his street, I can see him walking toward me instead of only away from me...going in the same direction as I drive. I look into his face and I rarely see a smile. He has never waved, which seems strange to me. I would think if you saw the same car every day as you walked to school, there would come a day when you would wave, if only to see if the driver would wave back. It makes me wonder what his young mind is thinking. Is he afraid? Has our culture and society become so dark and evil that a young boy wouldn't even wave at a familiar car? Would that be me?

That young boy isn't the only one that I've noticed in the past few weeks. As I stand on the stage at church each Sunday in the choir, I have a chance to look out over the congregation. I can see the faces of each person as they worship...or don't. There's a young man, probably twelve or thirteen who sits next to his adopted family. I know his story. His father murdered his mom a year ago and he and his brothers and sisters moved here to live with his aunt and uncle. He has since been legally adopted by them. A few months ago he gave his testimony during a Sunday night service...about how angry he was with God when his mom was killed. He told how the sheriff came to school to pick up him and his brothers and sisters to tell him what had happened.

I watch him during worship as he struggles to try to praise a God who loves him and to enter a place of peace and worship. He rarely smiles...but I can understand that. I can see his lips move as he sings the songs and I smile inside that he is able to do that. Yesterday, his hands tapped a drum beat on the chair in front of him as he joined in the worship chorus.

Yet as I watch him there with his adoptive family, I see a lonely boy who should be with the other kids from the youth group. Most of them are over in the other venue with the guitar driven worship designed for a younger audience. It makes me wonder why he is this service, where he is the youngest in the room. Does he need the presence of his new family? Is there a fear of abandonment in his soul that if he doesn't stay with his new family, they may be taken from him too? I long to see joy in his face, but it doesn't appear.

There is one more boy who has drawn my attention this week. I would guess him to be about five or six. He was singing...or more accurately, a participant, in the children's choir at church last night. I'm not sure what attracted me to him. It may have been his wild, black hair that reminded me of my hair in my senior portrait when I graduated from high school. He has a beautiful smile, but he rarely revealed it last night. He was concentrating too hard on the choir director and the sign language he was supposed to perform along with the song he was supposed to be singing. His dark eyes matched his olive complexion. I don't know his nationality, but he appeared to be Mediterranean.

It was apparent from watching him that he had probably missed most, if not all, of the rehearsals for the performance last night. His mouth barely moved, not knowing the words to the songs. And his sign language gestures were usually at least a full sentence behind, his head on a swivel looking to the right and left to see what the other kids were doing and trying to follow. There were a few moments when a smile would brighten his face as he moved in unison with the other kids.

As I stood in the audience watching the kids in the children's choir sing and perform, I felt an ache in my heart. That question that occasionally comes to mind, did.

"Why couldn't I have been a part of something like this when I was growing up?" I don't know if it would have changed my life, but I believe that it might have. It might have given me a sense of belonging...a sense of purpose in my young life. It might have given me the courage and boldness to stand up for things that I knew were right when I became a teenage instead of becoming a part of the "group", just so I could feel a sense of belonging.

When I look in the mirror of my life, I too often see the lonely boy walking to school alone...awkward and different. I see the boy who stays with his family instead of finding friends his own age...afraid of being alone, of being abandoned. I see the boy who is intent on being a part of a group...any group, even if he doesn't really belong in it. I see a boy who seeks to please others....even at the expense of himself.


1 comment:

Deb said...

Heartbreakingly brilliant! I saw you in each of those boys as well. The sad child who rarely smiled. Sal and I have talked often about how things might have been different if she and I had each other as children. A group of two who understood each other, accepted each other, and loved each other perfectly.

I am so sorry for the boys inside of you who never got what they needed. I am so grateful for the man you've become - the man who can finally give them that love and acceptance.

I love you.