Thursday, April 17, 2008

little boy lost

As I sit down to write this it's late in the evening. Everything always seems bleak when it's late and I'm tired. For some reason hope diminishes as the sun hides its face. Things seem darker, figuratively speaking, when darkness falls.

But still I can't seem to shake this feeling that started early this morning. Maybe the dark mood was because the sun chose not to grace us with its presence today. Maybe it was the irritating mist of a rain that never came but never left. I'm unsure.

Nonetheless, I felt my spirit sink low into the depths of me as I rounded the corner this morning. I don't know why this day was different, I mean, I've rounded this particular corner before many a time in the last several years. And while I felt a certain sadness on those days too, it's never been anything like this morning. This morning was different.

Oppression seems to seep into everything when you round this particular corner. Joy fades. Hope seems to flicker and die, like the match as it's hit by too much air.

I round the corner and take a deep breath.

The first thing you see is a parking lot. A sizable one, but not gigantic. Certainly not big enough for the purpose it should serve. And so the cars spill out of the parking lot and on to the street. They flow up and down both sides of the road. I slow the car and begin the search for a space big enough to squeeze into.

Further down the street. The cars are lined. I look at them as I pass, wondering who drives them. Some are battered and worn, old from overuse perhaps. Those are the ones you might expect to see in a place like this, I think to myself. But as quickly as I think it I'm reminded by the Mercedes and Lexus and other luxury cars that my stereotyping is truly unfair. I don't know their circumstances. I don't know exactly why they're here.

I only know that whatever the reason their car is parked here it is surely not on good terms. It's never a joyous occasion to be here.

I keep driving, this time up and down the side streets. Not a vacant spot in sight. It's surreal to me that this place is located smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The homesteads of a working class people. Up and down I go. I pass the second parking lot, which is still under construction. They just built a new facility, with more space and more seating.

They had outgrown their last building a long time ago.

I peer into the second parking lot, which is smaller in size than the first. I know I shouldn't even bother to look in there; there's never a free space in there.

Rounding the third side street I find a spot and quickly parallel park the car. I grab my umbrella, lock the car and start walking. I pass a few occupied cars and breathe in the smell of cigarettes. I'd probably smoke too, if I were waiting for someone inside there, I think to myself.

Once inside I quickly retract my umbrella, placing it and my briefcase on the conveyor belt. Dump my keys and my phone in the plastic container and walk with purpose through the metal detector. It doesn't go off. I grab my things and start the long walk down the hallway. The hallway is probably the size of a football field.

On the left side of the hallway is a wall of windows, with rows and rows of seats, almost all of which are filled each time I visit here. Today is no exception. The windows let in a glorious sort of light, even on this dismal day. It's an absolutely beautiful light on a sunny day. As I pass quickly by the rows of people I try to look unimpressed, unshaken. I feel like I'm being sized up by each person. As I try to guess their purpose for being in this building I'm sure they're trying to guess mine.

On the right side of the hallway are doors. Big, heavy doors. With tiny windows.

I've never taken the time to peer into the tiny windows. I've never even had the faintest desire to.

The last door at the end of the hallway is my destination. I walk in, then walk a few steps down another hallway. I grab what I came for, then quickly double back my steps, through the door, down the long hall with the windows, then finally through a set of double doors and into the damp air again.

I always try to go as fast as I can when I'm in that building. The pain is too much to bear.

Last year there were over 2,600 cases in the juvenile department in our county. 1,638 of those were listed under the title "juvenile offender". 992 of those cases were listed under "child in need of care". I'm sure you all know what a juvenile offender case would pertain to. The child in need of care cases are where there are circumstances in the child's home that were shown to be detrimental to the child's welfare.

2,638 cases in 2007. That's 220 new cases each month.

I'm thankful that I don't have to go into this building a lot. I'm thankful that I don't have to sit and listen to the cases, the stories, the people involved. It's always difficult. At times it's been emotionally scarring. Hearing the stories of "kids gone bad". Hearing the stories of abuse, neglect, hunger, pain, molestation. Knowing that these little lives are so broken. And that these little children grow up to be adults, still broken, still marred by their past. People who walk among us. People who we pass in the market. People who are in line behind us at the bank. People who serve us our meals at restaurants.

I wonder if they know about a person who would fix them. I want so badly to tell them of the person who fixed me. Hope springs eternal with this healer. In fact, I'm pretty sure hope sprung eternal from his woundings. His abuse. His neglect. His hunger. His pain. His name is Jesus. And he's the only person I know of that can fix the problem of our overcrowded, overbooked juvenile system.

Luke 23:28 -- Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children."

So tonight I weep.

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