I usually leave a speaking engagement feeling exhausted and exhilarated. Today I feel exhausted and sick. It’s not the scratchy throat and runny nose that seem to be worsening by the minute, it’s the quivering lip and the tear-filled, pleading eyes of a young face.
A face I can’t shake.
Even now I’d rather set my laptop aside and weep.
Just weep and sleep all afternoon. ‘Cuz I’m sick and I’m sick.
I got up early this morning, scratchy throat and all, loaded my stuff into my Escape and headed to a Christian school about 30 minutes away to talk to sixth graders about building healthy lives, healthy marriages and healthy kids.
The first session went beautifully, as usual. The students listed all the things that make them unique geniuses. They listed all the good things they want from life and all the good things they want to contribute to life.
After a fifteen minute break, we talked about the things that can trip you up, pull you off course, cause you to lose your focus. We worked through scenarios and looked down the roads of shoplifting, pornography, drugs and unmarried sex.
I shared real life examples from my years as a social worker and as a crisis pregnancy center director. The kids had questions. Lots and lots of questions.
A girl in the front row raised her hand.
“If a man and a woman did stuff when they were young and then got married and did other stuff, would any of their kids die?”
“I’m not sure what kind of stuff you mean, like drugs?”
Head nodding yes, “And alcohol.”
“Well, drugs and alcohol could cause things like a miscarriage, or fetal alcohol syndrome or developmental delays, but I don’t think the drug usage of the parents would directly cause an older child to die.”
More kids asked more questions and then her hand went up again. Another question about dying.
“Do you know someone who died?”
The third time her hand went up, same hypothetical scenario but this time a little more detailed, I knew she was talking about her family.
After the presentation, she lagged behind. She told me she is adopted. Her eyes pleaded with me for something, some hope that her older brothers, who were adopted separately, whose whereabouts are unknown to her, are okay. Are not dead.
We only had a minute. As her tears welled, I asked if the burdens of her heart were too heavy. I asked whether she was tempted to go the route of her birth mother. She nodded yes.
I gave her a hug. It was a limp, rag doll hug.
I wanted to ask her whether she could talk to her parents, whether they knew her concerns about her brothers, about alcohol. I wanted to know whether she had anyone to talk to. I wanted to tell her that Jesus knows all about her brothers. He knows all about her heart and her fears. He really does have enough love and power to help her.
But she left. She quickly left to catch up with her class.
And I want to make it all better for her.
And I can’t shake her sadness.