I was cutting grass, head down, thinking about how the warm weather had finally gotten here as he wheeled around the corner on his scooter. I looked up to see a seven year old wearing a wrinkled, too small t-shirt and an expectant look on his face. I quit cutting and said, “How are you this morning?” He bounced in place, hopping on and off his scooter, “I’m okay. I wish I could play with my friends that live over there.” He pointed to a house a few doors down. “I bet you do. Maybe they like to sleep in on Saturday mornings. A lot of folks do that. It feels good, don’t you think?” He looked at me as he thought about it, “Yeah, I guess it does.”
And because I wanted to get my chores done so I could play in the sun, I went back to cutting the grass. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him watching me until he gave up and went back home.
A few minutes later, I heard the sounds of a basketball being dribbled around the corner. The sound kept getting louder. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t look up at him. I can give you all the reasons why I didn’t. I’m not convinced that I could justify my reasons.
I kept cutting grass with my head down, listening to the basketball, afraid to strike up another conversation. If I chatted with him, he’d end up hanging in our driveway, drawing chalk smiley faces, eating cinnamony toast and finagling an invite to lunch. Only that’s not what he was hungry for. I know what he was hungry for. He was hungry for attention. Why else would a seven year old bounce a basketball in front of a middle-aged woman that he didn’t know – for what seemed like five solid minutes?
He gave up. I’m sure he’s used to being ignored. And, yes, I still feel guilt about not “feeding” him.
I have two hungry kids, and a third hungry child had stayed over. I had my hands full “feeding” three already. I have only so much “food” to give. You might try to tell me that there is no end to the “food” I’m able to give. And you may be right. But I selfishly guard my supply for Jen and Will and their cousins and friends.
That was three days ago. I’m still thinking about that hungry boy. I’m concerned about how that hunger will change him. Will he turn into the kid in 5th grade who doesn’t “get” personal space, because he so craves closeness? Will he turn into the kid that acts out in an effort to get attention – even negative attention?
And how will he handle his hunger when he’s a young man? Will he bounce from relationship to relationship, trying to find someone to “feed” him? Will he develop addictions thinking drugs will make him feel better, but only end up numbing the hunger?
Will he start a family, and fail to feed his kids in the same way that he isn’t being fed?
How much heartache could be avoided by feeding this hungry boy now?
I’m sure I’ll be seeing him again, and of course I will ask him how he is, but like a stray cat, if I “feed” this boy, he’ll keep coming around. I know he is so much more important than a stray cat. He’s a tender soul who doesn’t need much. I know what he needs. I know how to feed him. But my “food” can’t compare to what he really needs. He needs to be fed by his people. No one else can give him what he needs quite the way his people ought to. You are going to tell me that I have to step up, if his people don’t. But if I step up, my kids will get less “food” and then you’ll find them standing outside your front door, dribbling a basketball.