There are those moments that you completely hate, yet stick with you forever. In the summer of 2015, I had one of those moments. Every once in a while, kids have a bad attitude they can’t shake or hurt other children at Kids Club and have to go home early. And sometimes, maybe once a year, a child has a complete meltdown, and I’m tasked with picking the child up and carrying them to the van that will take them home. Deshaun was having one of those days.
An intern told me Deshaun had punched another kid and was walking away from Kids Club. When we found Deshaun, he was just a little ways away from the Park, sitting on the ground by a tree. After talking for a bit, it was clear Deshaun wasn’t going to move, and I was going to have to carry him. I explained everything and told him we would have to carry him, but he still wouldn’t budge. Deshaun’s in fourth grade (2015) and isn’t really big, but he’s stocky and strong. I could’ve carried him by myself, but when I picked him up, he started punching, kicking, flailing, biting, spiting, scratching, and throwing dirt. It took me and an intern to carry him, as I carried his arms and chest while he held his legs. It was one of the most heartbreaking days for me, because Deshaun is one of my favorite kids. He has a rough home life, and I was convinced we had lost him forever.
Many of the kids here get into rough stuff when they are in fourth or fifth grade. Some start running around White Swan at all hours, messing with drugs, breaking into homes, and causing havoc. Many times I’ve seen kids in that age range stop coming to Church and begin a descent. So when this incident happened with Deshaun, I was convinced this was just the beginning – his anger and rage were out of control, and he would hate us for having taken him home. After talking to his mother, she said he couldn’t come to Church anymore, and we were also worried about having him around given his anger and inability to listen to leaders.
Here’s a little background on Deshaun: at the time, he and his mom, her boyfriend, and three little sisters had been living for a year in a tiny camper. They had cardboard over some of the windows and garbage bags over others. The lot they’re on is their cousins, who have kids in a house on the same lot. The area is surrounded with old cars, tall weeds, and garbage. It’s a depressing place. There are rough people going in and out of the house and drugs are almost certainly being used within. Deshaun and his sisters, Church regulars, are living there.
Deshaun is one of my favorites because he’s always helpful, smart, a regular volunteer for the stories, and often very kind. When he gets in trouble, he’s sneaky about it, and it’s usually for messing with other kids or bullying. During Christmas (2014), he got a tiny Lego set, put it together, and proudly brought it to Church, saying: “Joshua gave this to me!” When he forgot it at Church, I took it by his home, stood in the snow and ice, and knocked on the flimsy cardboard-metal door to return it to him as he beamed with joy and returned to his hellish home.
After Deshaun’s meltdown at Kids Club, I was a mixture of discouragement and anger. I was discouraged because I thought: 1. He’s not going to be able to come to Church again, 2. He’s descending into anger and we won’t be able to get him back, 3. When he does come back, he’s going to hate us, 4. I hate that his home is so rough, 5. If he can’t “make it” none of the kids will, and 6. Deshaun might be beyond help or hope. I was also angry at: him, his mom, his family, their housing, and the way the Rez chews up and spits out so many kids just like him. After we got back from Kids Club that day, I felt completely spent, and even though I thoroughly rinsed my mouth out from the dirt he threw at me, all evening I kept finding sand and grit in my teeth.
How do you deal with kids like that? How do you go forward when the obstacles are insurmountable? At the time, I couldn’t see a way forward. I didn’t know how to help or who to turn to for help. But thankfully the staff here reminded me:
· We still have hope because
o God does miracles who does amazing things
o God comforts the brokenhearted
o God is bigger than us, or our sin, or Deshaun’s sin, or his family’s sin.
o God wants us to come to Him with our disappointment and sadness and broken hearts and tears. We are called to weep and mourn and be angry and fight for things to be different.
Chris Granberry often points out the importance of small short Bible verses and often cites: “Jesus went around doing good.” (Acts 10:38 NLT). It’s a short tiny verse that reminds us when we don’t know what to do or what’s happening or how to help: Jesus did good things and helped and healed people. I may not know what to do with Deshaun or have a clue about how to help or know what the future holds, but I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and follow Jesus as we try to do good and help people, and trust God is in control and loving.
A few weeks later, Deshaun started coming back to Church, and has been regularly involved since. Now he’s in the After School Program. For maybe six months (the winter months!!) his home life changed for the better but now they’re back in the same camper. He, his sisters, and cousins are still regularly involved with Church, and I pray we can reach them and they know Jesus more and more.