She is somebody’s child. Walking in the rain. Clothes soaked and dirty. She is somebody’s child.
He crosses Union Ave; shouts at the sky with arm raised and fist clenched. He is somebody’s child.
Leg’s crossed, she smokes at the bus stop. Her head is down low, almost touching her knees. The weight of a life gone south. She is someone’s child lost long ago.
He moves crablike as he sits in a wheelchair while his legs churn as he moves across Poplar. Still wearing his hospital gown; still somebody’s child.
She sleeps in the doorway of an abandoned store. A flattened cardboard box is her bed. Her head is covered with an old blanket. Somebody’s child.
A woman passes on the street. The stream of profanities she loudly shouts clears her path. People look on amused or amazed or terrified. Somebody’s child.
I heard at Manna House two weeks ago that she died alone in an abandoned apartment building. I wondered if she ever said, like my child said last week “I want to paint a rainbow Daddy.”
My phone rang yesterday. A mother and daughter are coming to look for their son on the streets of Memphis.
“He just up and left three years ago. He went from acting strange sometimes to being strange all the time. We followed leads and we think he’s here.”
He is somebody’s child.
People of faith commonly assert that “We are all children of God.” Some of us might have even sung as children,
“Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world…”
And some of us might even have come across Shane Bertou’s version of this song that does not use racial categories and racist language like “Yellow” and “Red.”
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Every color, shape and size, they are precious in his eyes.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
When I sing this song as an adult I know that it is not just about “the little children of the world” but all of us. Jesus loves all of us. And Jesus himself taught, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
Yet here we are. Somebody’s child, God’s child—God’s children, are abandoned on the streets. This got me thinking about something else Jesus said, something about his identification with children, including those abandoned on the street. It is a call from Jesus. And it is not an easy one. It is a call that demands hospitality to be sure, but also the struggle for justice, for housing as a human right, so that all God’s children have a home.
“’If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me’” (Mark 9:30-37).