Scripture: Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:13-14)
Meditation: As I pulled my car into the parking lot at the shelter, I saw another car follow me into the small lot. The car was crowded with children and belongings. It looked like the family had endeavored to strap every last possession on the car’s roof, and the trunk strained with the remaining items. As I sat and watched, three children climbed quietly out of the car, but it was clear that another child remained inside the car. He was engaged in an animated conversation with his parents. All of a sudden the car door swung open and the young boy burst out, tears streaming down his face. He was barely 12 or 13 years old. He began to walk briskly down the sidewalk, screaming and crying that he did not want to stay at a shelter, asking his parents, “How could you do this to me?” As he walked away his shattered and defeated parents stood with their heads bowed, holding back their own tears.
Parents know how tough the years of a middle-schooler can be as they seek to venture out on their own and gain the acceptance of their peers. Can you imagine being a young boy living in a shelter? How do you invite your friends over after school? How do you even tell your friends where you live?
Homelessness is hell for children, and it shapes their lives for years, if not for a lifetime. A study by the Interagency Council on the Homeless (now the U.S. Interagency on Homelessness) revealed the sobering statistic that more than a quarter of all homeless adults had been homeless as children, and many others had experienced similar childhood traumas of abuse, foster care, or institutionalization. Every day that we allow children to be homeless on our city streets increases the likelihood that they and their children will find themselves on those same streets years from now. We must find a way to imbue this generation of children with hope for a future, or their hopelessness will consume them and diminish us.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
who cover themselves with Band-aids and sing off key,
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
who slurp their soup.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.By Ina J. Hughs
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