He was fifteen when he came to me. And even on the first day I knew he couldn’t stay. I knew it wasn’t the right fit… he was broken beyond repair and a danger to the other children. I could see it in his eyes…he was ruined. I know that sounds callous…but it’s the reality. He was a throw away…lost in a system that seemed determined to destroy the child he’d once been.
What’s his story, I asked the caseworker who dropped him off. His story, said the man, is he’s been abused by every adult he’s ever come into contact with. There was no child left…just a shell of a victim.
So I took him into my home with seven other kids and gave him a bed, some good food and a short glimpse of what a family looks like. He settled in, smiled a lot, and was friendly enough. The girls put tiny ponytails in his long curly hair, the boys played video games with him side by side, he jumped on the trampoline, ate cookies like he’d never had one, and…that’s all I really remember. Sometimes, after they leave…I block them out. It’s the only way.
I remember his brown eyes. I remember his crooked smile. And I remember the moment he broke my heart.
We stood on the porch side by side, him taller than me by several inches, a shadow of the man he would become. A man with no model of what a man should be. A man with no footsteps to follow. He stood at my arm as the caseworker walked up the drive. He clutched his brown paper sack, everything he owned in the world crammed inside.
The worker stepped onto the porch and the boy turned to me. I looked at him and no words came.
“I know I can’t stay,” he said quietly. “But I wanted to.”
The worker took the bag from the boy and he turned to give me a hug. I wrapped my arms around the lanky boy who’d shared our home for just four days and I began to cry.
He held me. And he comforted me.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ve done this a lot.”
And then he left me there, standing alone in my shame.