Who is this little guy? Some cheap toy won in a grabbing machine, or perhaps a giveaway at some welfare office or daycare center?. Who knows? He’s not very important in his own right and is a toy that most people would toss pretty quickly. Let me tell you what he means to me.
Years ago, I was piloting a youth program. Alone. Extremely stressful job. I was the case manager, the recruiter, the trainer, the follow-up specialist, all rolled into one. One of my clients was Lakesha (name changed just in case).
Lakesha was borderline mentally challenged and her test scores barely qualified her for our program. Every time she came to my office, she came with a different man, and with a precious little boy who was much bigger than he should have been for his age. He was 5ish, and Lakesha was 19, so that in itself says a lot.
He was very quiet. Probably autistic. Never once in his life made eye contact with me. But I kept things around for him. Books, snacks, pop. Over a period of months, he began to come in and look for a new book or goodie. Even though he’d not meet my eye, I knew he liked me. Every time he came, he had this little bear with him and held him constantly.
One day, as he and his mom and BoyfriendOfTheMoment were leaving, he ran back to my office. He of course did not look me in the eye, but he held out his hand. It had the little bear in it. I was momentarily confused. Then he reached out and took my hand, and put the bear in it, and closed my fingers around the bear. Then he turned and ran to the door where his mother was saying “boy cmon and hurry up”.
I had to shut my office door for an hour. This child had just given me, from all that I could ascertain, his most prized possession. Why did he do it? Because he was tired of carrying it around? No. He did it because he wanted to give me something and that was the only thing in the world that he had to give.
It struck me in that moment: I may not ever reach his mama. I maybe can’t save her. But it’s just possible that he got something from me that he can cling to through the years of what would most certainly be a really rough life. Just some little something. Some vague memory of being important to someone.
I lost track of his mother. These young people are very transient. But that little bear has traveled everywhere I go, for 10 years. He sits beside me on my desk, at home, and at work. He is my constant reminder of what I’m supposed to be doing. He doesn’t have a name….because they don’t usually have a name. At least not one that anyone bothers to learn.
Anyhow, in cleaning off my desk tonight, I dusted the spot around him and wanted to share. Always remember, as you go through life, you don’t know when you may be profoundly touching a life. He will never know how deeply he touched mine.