I’m out for coffee with a friend, the sweetest $4.95 of my day. Mid-summer warmth dimly fades into night as conversations linger. A coffee shop Bible study ends, drifting people into the illuminated parking lot.
Peaceful, fond goodbyes drift through the air as I hop into my comfy car. Plugging in my phone, I glance up….there you are. Sitting on the curb, your face on your knees. Christian hands juggle Bibles, coffees, keys….cars start and fade away, nobody sees you. Nobody is looking at the dirty teenager on the curb. I pause, my hand upon the starter….
You are young, but your shoulders already bear the slump of burdens….something about the tilt of your head, the way your hands shield your face pierces my mother’s heart, but I hesitate…it’s late, I’m a woman, alone in a parking lot at night…
Whelp…here goes, God!
I roll down my window….calling out, “are you okay?” My voice sounds thin and I wonder if he heard me. He glances up….a tear snakes its way down his smooth cheek only to be roughly captured by a sleeve. He jerks his face away from me.
He’s not ok. He has no words, but I’ve seen all I need to know.
Heart pounding, I leave the car and settle down on the pavement next to him, tucking my comfy orange “homeschool mom” sundress underneath me, pavement digging into my bare ankles.
A garish clown leers at me from his shoulder ink, his curly head stays down on his knees.
“Are you ok?” His head shakes a negative. He’s not.
I tentatively reach out and touch his shoulder as sobs shake his young body. The leering clown mocks his pain, its evil eyes laugh at me…do I know what I’m doing? I’m desperately praying for wisdom here.
“Do you want me to leave? I can’t leave you here, I’m concerned about you.” He doesn’t want me to leave, the slightest of head shakes.
Ok, Lord, I’ll stay, now what?
Talk to him about God. Got it.
“Do you know the love of a father?” More sobs, accompanied by gritted teeth…silence.
“I know of a Heavenly Father who loves you, even if you’ve never heard those words from an earthly father.” And so it begins….a mostly one sided conversation, me talking about the love of God, him weeping, barely whispering bitter answers.
His name is Darus (Daris?) He was kicked out of the house three days ago. He’s 18. He’s in high school, plays football, works at the fish market downtown.
I lean against the building and talk about creation, God, Jesus, heaven….that there was a reason he was there tonight and I was there….about how there are no coincidences in God’s eternal, wondrous time-line.
Mid-conversation, a man strolls up and tosses $2 down at Darus,”Buy yourself some food”, he states coldly, and stalks away. Darus hasn’t eaten in three days and even his clown is starting to look a bit famished.
It’s Darus’ brother. I look down at the 2 filthy, crumpled bills in the gutter. That won’t buy much of anything.
Let’s go get a burger…and we head over to the biker restaurant next door….loud music, smoke, there’s a rousing game of corn hole going on…
We make our way through the crowd, this rough, young man and this homeschool mom in her orange, flowered dress and pony-tail. I order a burger, fries, a drink.
His tears are dried as he eats…. I jot down the number of someone who can help him….I long to pat his head, like I do my sons…but I refrain…. only saying, take care of yourself. Remember what we spoke of….remember….there’s a God who loves you. Please don’t forget. Remember.
He mumbles a thank you and our eyes lock for one brief moment, his dark and shadowed, heavily lashed, reddened from the tears of a thousand hurts, aged beyond their years…and he looks away.
And I leave…because there’s not much more I can do….and as I walk away, I look back at this broken, young life with the scary clown that mocks the world from his shoulder, and I plead with God to make him count for eternity.
Grow the seed. Change the life. Heal the heart.
This was several years ago, but every time I pass by that spot in Garner at Aversboro coffee, I think of Darus and the hand he was dealt in life, and I pray that somewhere, somehow, he has found his way, found God, found the love of a true Father….found someone to say “I love you” and mean it.
Please, God. Let’s not leave the coffee shop with our lattes, laughs, and Bibles, not seeing, not looking for the broken.