I saw "D" on the one and only working swing in "The Gardens" today, and he wanted me to push him. He is about 3 years old, and has some speech delay. But I heard what I needed to hear. With no one close by watching him or playing with him, he began to talk right away. "My daddy hit my mama." "I'm sorry..." "Did she call the police?" "No." "My mama beat my daddy up." "I said please don't take my daddy to jail." "Are your parents home now? Who is watching you?" "I watch my own self." After a while his mom came back from another house she was visiting and he clammed up and wouldn't speak. She acted surprised by how shy he was acting, but it wasn't that surprising to me. He was scared to talk around her, He was traumatized and confused. And yet? He kissed her face and cuddled her without words. Reaching for a love he wishes he could trust more, and probably instinctively wanted to show her protection and compassion for the abuse he has witnessed. As soon as she walked away he began to talk to us again. (I had a few volunteers along; we were walking the neighborhood as part of our Saturday outreach and just stopping for people.) We scooped him up (with her permission) and brought him, along with about 15 other kids over to the Carver Village of Hope Center for about an hour of playtime, snacks and art. (On the walk over, he kept saying "I don't want to go home." "I'm sorry," I said again.)
They were safe, in a peaceful environment and able to talk and laugh without feeling threatened. I helped "D" blow bubbles outside and colored a picture for him and just loved him like my own. I was especially gentle with him as I had seen harsh treatment toward him from another woman in his neighborhood within a matter of minutes after he shared his story with us. And this little guy? Has the sweetest, most tender and innocent spirit and personality! He did not understand why he deserved a slap on the head as an excuse for a "hello." Oh the potential to be tapped into! The heart to be nurtured and the love and attention to be given and soaked up like a sponge! He covered my hand with his tiny hand and I knew he was one of the "Jesus" moments today. When I stopped for him I knew I had stopped for Jesus. I live for these moments. Do you?
Another little girl didn't have a lot of time to spend with me, but saw me in the backyard and ran up to me and jumped into my arms for several moments. She just wrapped her arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Not a lot of words, but a whole lot of love! Another face-to-face/cheek-to-cheek encounter with Jesus in the face of the "least." (who are really the greatest!) Time stops for me when I am holding Him, or when I recognize that He is right in front of me, right beside me or standing out in a crowd that would normally hide Him...unless we are so in love and have so trained our eyes to recognize Him that we can spot Him even in the most unlikely places or people. Because we are living a life in front of His face already. Before our feet even hit the ground.
I think God takes it very personally how we treat Him, particularly how we treat His son, in how we treat the ones who need a push on the swing or a safe shoulder to rest on. He is waiting for us to come and find Him in the face of the ONE. To see, to stop, to care.
Want to be changed into the likeness of Christ? Soak up his countenance in the cheeks of the broken, in the embrace of the drunkard, in the prayers you send up for the prostitute while holding her hand. Feed his hunger and quench His thirst. Go. Seek. Find...
You may just be overlooking Him because He doesn't look "important." Take time to hear stories. Know names. Sit in the dirt and play. Share a meal. Do what is not comfortable and convenient. Go where you feel Him leading you, not just where you want to go. Once your eyes are opened, you cannot un-see Him. In fact, He is pretty hard to miss!
I love you, Jesus. I will be looking for you again tomorrow.
I don't want you to just "watch your own self." Not on my watch.
-"Mama J," (Jessica Goodman) director at www.carvervillageofhope.com and pastor of