The Littlest & Least in the Land of the Free

Posted: March 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

I wrote this quite some time ago, but it was just too fresh to share. Today I ran into it in my journal and I knew it was time.

I went to my son’s school today for a Mother’s Day Tea, an event so important to him that he forsook his usual t-shirt for a dark gray button-down. This – in the strange land known as First Grade – signifies a funeral or a Big Event. When I arrived, many of the kids were sitting in their mom’s laps or showing off the art they had created to commemorate the special day.

Then, standing in a crooked line and displaying mouthfuls of crooked teeth, they read two books and sang a song that required swaying and snapping – a tall order for such short people. Next, their amazing teacher played a slide show which I could try to describe but I could never do it justice. Finally, the kids proudly served us cake and a Styrofoam cup of watery punch and it was the best feast I’ve had in a very long time. In the end, all us moms were blinking away tears and hugging the stuffing out of our children.

In fact, it would have been a nearly-perfect event except there’s always a thing, you know? There’s always that one thing that happens that messes up these happy, breezy moments for us middle-class Americans. The thing for me was two kids. Two kids whose moms didn’t show up.

The first was a little boy with beautiful, intelligent brown eyes who sat with me for awhile and showed me his drawing, explaining his love of the black crayon. His mom wasn’t there because she’s never there. He is raised by his grandfather and they have been homeless off-and-on throughout the year. I am amazed that any mom or dad would let this kid get away. But I’m also amazed at a grandpa who won’t;  even if it means raising him in his car. I’m not saying that’s a good life for him – not at all – but I guess I’m old enough to know how much it means to be wanted by anybody when the people you most want to want you, are unable or unwilling.

Kid #2 was this cute and precocious little gal with freckles and glasses whose mom is also out of the picture. I don’t know who takes care of her now, but I know her life is hard. For a few minutes, I was totally distracted by her glasses. I kept thinking: where did she get those? Somebody took her to the eye doctor and helped her pick them out, but it wasn’t her mom. Somebody paid for them, but it wasn’t her mom. I don’t know who her mom is or why she’s gone, but I know that somebody was wonderful to buy those glasses.

I’m a pastor and I spend a lot of time in church, but today I felt about a million miles from where I work. I love the Church passionately, but I often feel the issues we invest in and argue about inside the walls of Christendom are very small in terms of eternal importance, but huge in terms of their power to distract us from the real needs of real people living in a really hard world. While we debate the differences between emerging and emergent, there are actual kids who are sitting with the teacher’s aid at a Mother’s Day Tea because there is no one else to remind them that they belong.

This is America; these are our orphans.

“Enjoy God, cheer when you see Him! Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in His holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom.” Psalm 68:5

  1. Lanelle says:

    Thank you Bo.

  2. Caleb Brown says:

    I guess this one hit closer to home cause we’re about to have our own little girl. I thought back over my week and remembered all the conversations I’ve had about emerging and emergent (3 of them) and then counted how many little kids (1st grade or under) I have gone out of my way to bless in a tangible way (just 1). Feel pretty convicted about where my priorities are. I am going to make sure that next week that ratio is different.

  3. Jen Hoffmann says:

    OH Bo, Bo! Thank you. I needed to hear someone say this today.

  4. Tami says:

    I totally understand this post. I too have been to the Special Days at school to find that one or two are left alone. It always rips my heart right out of my chest. Like you, I try to love on them as much as I can and they enjoy it…but in the end I am not the one they really want.

    If I was a psychologist I might make a connection between the little boy and the black crayon…but I am just a mom who is very blessed with four amazing kids that take my breath away almost every day. And I ache for the moms that are missing these Special Days.

  5. We Americans like to this our “orphan” problem is taken care of by “others” don’t we? I know it is camouflaged in this country. Hidden from clear view. You actually have to look hard or be put into certain situations to see it.
    BUT GOD can open our eyes and then is when our hearts become involved. Just what to do is always a question. BUT GOD can show us – and that is my prayer! Show us.

  6. I’ve been under a table holding one of these little American orphans, because she wouldn’t come out. I’ve held little African orphans in the middle of nowhere. They don’t know there’s any difference. Neither do I.
    Thanks for the reminder, Bo. I love your heart.

  7. Elisa says:

    An acquaintance told me the other day “Are you SURE you want to do this? I’ve heard that foster care & adopting is a really big hassle & you have to put up with all kinds of stuff from the government & blah, blah, blah…” I just watched her talking until she was done. I said, “If we don’t give these orphans a home, who will?” She stared. “Good point. You guys are special.” Whatever. Anyone can do it, if once they hear clearly the call of God. We all have been called; His Word pursues us & compels us to act (James 1: 27 & Is. 58 for example). He will strengthen us for the future. He will change the world through these kids we (you) raise! Selah. This is the call to the Church, not the state. The Church’s absolving our own individual call has made it necessary for the government to step in and take over. Sad state of affairs when government does more for orphans than God’s own. I’m not judging, just defining. Sometimes that’s all it takes for people to get their “Ah HAH” moment in order to finally figure out what to “do” when God opens our eyes & involves our hearts. Don’t say, “We can’t afford it” when we have a Father who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills! And we cannot use the excuse that it’s not our gift or calling since the Bible itself defines true religion as this very dilemma (Ja.1:27).

    I’m excited. It won’t be easy. I’m also scared, but not defeated. Tired, but not beaten down. Confident in the leading of my saviour.

    And so very grateful for the friends He has brought back into my life “for such a time as this.” You are one of them.

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