It was a Tuesday morning. The moment we walked through those big oak doors of the crowded Court House, my heart sunk. I could see the brokenness of this life a little more clearly than a typical day. I am ashamed to say it, but I was jarred by this reality. It was like turning on the car radio only to find the volume was left on full blast.
One by one, young men dressed in orange approached the judge looking like the hurt would just swallow them right up. We all sat quietly only to hear stories of abuse, addictions and anger rattled off like a stack of grocery lists being read from their files. I had so many questions. But mostly, I was paralyzed with helplessness. Next, the judge read the number of days they would be kept inside with an empty emotion. Then he looked up at them with a meek smile to ask, “Do you understand.”
This is where I would want to jump up and scream through the silence, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. What happened? When did this become your stories?”
You see, in this moment, I could only see boys who were living out the hurts and disappointments of their past. Why? Because amongst the group of young men in orange, stood my little brother.
There was the blonde haired boy with a scar on his head because I once hit him over the head with a Fisher Price skate. How did we get here from the days of our simple childhood?
As his rap sheet was read, I saw a flash of him as a little boy. Somehow, it felt as if this was the story given to him a long time ago. While I knew HIS choices got us here, I also knew the other side. I knew he was repeating the generation before him like a bad rerun.
I know too well the extreme amount of faith it takes to rebuild a story of hope on top of the ruins left by the ones who hurt us. It runs deep.
I wish I could go to each man in orange that day and ask, “What did your file say before all this? Do you remember? Would it say you liked to build forts out of cardboard boxes or have bike races down steep hills? Would it say you were scared when your mom left you at kindergarten or that you cried in the bathtub when you realized your dad wasn’t coming back? Would it say you had a pet turtle, a ferret, a dog and a rabbit?”
I really wish I was brave enough to say, “You are not what that file says, you are a child of God.”
Except I didn’t say all that, I just sat there.
Some days, I am ashamed to say, I still just sit here. I get busy and caught up in my life of comfort. It’s easy to forget the ones who are already forgotten – like the fatherless, the kid who is hard to love and the less privileged.
I can’t anymore. I just can’t. It’s the ones who are the hardest to love who need us the most. My head knows it and I pray my heart remembers it often. I pray God uses me to be a part of the life change in the stories of those around me and for those who come behind me. I refuse to push repeat on this life.
Imagine if you could flash forward to tangibly see the outcome of the seeds you intentionally plant now in others? How would that change the way your spend your time?
Let’s all point our arrows where God has placed us. Let’s never give up hope because God never gives up on us. Remember, every child needs someone to be their champion. Every person needs someone who shows up.
What if that someone was you?