Picture a school, the old centerblock kind with banners all over it.
Picture a kid laying on the bench in front.
Picture a teenage dad with his small baby sitting on that same bench.
Picture a principal determined to make a difference.
Picture the high school basketball team filing in, each taking a classroom to assist.
Picture a washer and dryer running full time – most kids only have one uniform.
This is what I see when I walk in the doors of M, a school our church has “adopted.”
Yesterday, the school was alive with excitement. It was “santa store” day and the kids had been earning “santa bucks” for good behavior. Today was the day to cash in their bucks. Our church had purchased 1000 gifts for the kids to give to their family members. It was shopping day at its finest. I sat in my spot to wrap the gifts for the kids and began talking to the kids as they waited for me to wrap. Child after child, I was enthralled with their stories, wishes, heartbreaks and dreams. The consistent request for socks and underwear for Christmas just about did me in.
Then came Carlos (not his real name). Carlos, and his purple, sparkly lotion bottle. I asked him if it was for his mom. “No, mam” he replied, “I am getting it for me so that I can smell good.” At that moment, with a grin as big as Texas, I was head over heels in love. He began to try to open the lotion to put it on right then so he could “start smelling good.” The teachers had told them they were not allowed to open any gifts and, in an effort on my part to keep my new ‘sweetheart’ out of trouble, I asked him to use it that night after his bath and I would come and see how good he smelled the next day. He seemed content with that and I went to the next kid in line, glad to have made a new friend.
The Next Day: Today we had the teacher appreciation lunch for the teachers at M. I made a mental note to remember to go and check on Carlos and see how shiny and good smelling he was. Our first group of teachers came in and I asked about Carlos, only they got really quiet and didn’t really answer. Now, me being the quiet type (HAHA) I let it die and moved on. No way. I went to the next set of teachers to see where Carlos was and was told that he went “somewhere” and would be back at noon but they couldn’t tell me where. Now I am worried. So, I went to the principal to find my new sweetheart. It turns out social services came to pick up my new friend due to an ongoing investigation. My heart sank.
Out of all the kids that came through my line yesterday – this one, this one who stole my heart –
“Oh Lord, protect this child.”