The mother of perhaps the biggest pothead in his class approached me to talk about her son. It was a Parent-Teacher event where we conversed about college and broke the bread of Subway. He wasn’t gonna make it tonight, she apologized… then a heavy sigh, and a shaking of her head, lowering her eyes to her feet.
“Truth be told, I don’t even know where he is.”
The conversation that continued was a story of resolute ruin. Through misty eyes and a lot of nervous fiddling, she explained that her husband walked out on them eight years ago. Her son was only in elementary school and was placed in a support group with six other students, all of whom were there because of dead parents.
At that ripe age when innocence is most vulnerable and perception is most dangerous, he watched as his dad rummaged through the house, packing up his things and walk out the front door without ever looking back. A year later, after being fired from her job, she filed for bankruptcy, sold the house and went on government assistance.
They’ve been living hand to mouth ever since.
“He’s a good kid.” She met my eyes and smiled.
“Its just, he has no one in his life to drive him. I can tell him he is smart and I can tell him he is good, but I am, after all, just his mother.”
I left at about a quarter to 7 because my friend, the one I spoke about in this post, was giving his life story before the School Board. Sneaking in, just a few minutes before his time to go, I took a seat a few rows behind a large round table of folks, a scene resembling a boardroom meeting. Old men and women in fancy suits radiating from the left and right sides of the all-powerful superintendent. My friend was there to advocate for a group that had a major impact on his success. And a teacher that started it all.
He told of the inspiration he felt when this man, also a racial minority, spoke of his rough starts in this world, telling him that it was possible to do more in your life than people expected you to. Later on, in what quickly turned into a sermon, he relayed little stories of how this man was there for him when he was at his worst. How he celebrated with him when he was at his best. The way he was always there for him, through thick and thin. He couldn’t imagine where he would be today had this guy not stepped into his most critical years.
And I’ll tell you what– the house wept buckets of tears. Quite a spectacle to see such humanity emerge from such stoic authority. Kind of took my breath away.
And it got me thinking.
Maybe Ash Wednesday is more about a call and a response.
A call from the mom that needs someone to speak hope into her son.
A call from a kid waiting for somebody to tell him it’s not his fault.
A call from an immigrant looking for his place, resisting those that would place him in a box.
A call from a beat up world, desperate for a fighter in their corner.
Spending forty days in the wilderness was a choice Christ made to step into our own sin and blunt it. As a man, fully human, he was subject to all the same thoughts and draws and whims that we feel on a daily basis, yet, he never faltered. He never gave in because he knew that our freedom hinged on his perseverance.
What if we lived our lives in complete awareness of others depending upon US? How would things change if we really understood the meaning of “loving your neighbor as yourself”? Would we be different if we realized that people met in passing may need US now more than ever? Do you think we’d be brave enough to take a 40-day walk with them, or even for them?
Heart check time,