I’ll call him Joshua, even though that’s not his name. He was a blonde kid with so much spunk he bounced off the walls. Joshua had two volumes: loud, and deafening.
When he was in my Sunday school class, he was bad to act out. He even shouted swear words if you ignored him too long. Thus, I did my best not to ignore the little trucker-mouth.
I sat him upfront, and promised to let him comment on each question if he’d wait until others answered first. And each time he stuck to our contract, I paid him one dollar. One summer, Joshua almost landed me in the poorhouse.
“Boys and girls,” I’d ask. “Does anyone remember the name of Esau’s brother?”
Joshua’s face would get as red as a tomato. When I’d call on him, he’d explode. “WILLIE! ESAU’S BROTHER WAS WILLIE!”
Joshua, you’ll note, spoke in all caps.
One day, after church, nobody picked Joshua up from class. He sat outside waiting for an entire hour. His face got sadder the longer he waited.
Finally, I called his mother at work. She wasn’t scheduled to get off until late afternoon. His daddy was supposed to get Joshua, but must’ve forgotten.
Thus, Joshua spent the day with me. We ate Kentucky Fried Chicken on the playground, where I learned that Joshua’s parents had divorced. His daddy was on probation for drugs; his mother worked two jobs, and cleaned condos on the weekends. I also discovered Joshua was an only child, that his closest friend was the Disney Channel.
And it was while he sat on a swing, he started crying about missing his parents. And if you’ve ever seen an eight-year-old cry, it’s enough to turn the whole world black and gray.
Finally, he asked, “Do you think we could be friends, Mister Sean?”
“Buddy,” I said. “We already are friends.”
“What else is there?”
That answer seemed to suit him just fine.
Later that afternoon, when Joshua’s mother picked him up, she apologized up, down, and sideways for working late. But there was no need.
It was me who was sorry. Sorry that life isn’t fair; that some fathers aren’t fathers; that some mothers work three jobs. That children who get the least attention in this world are the ones who need it the most.
Yesterday, I saw Joshua in the newspaper. He’s not a little blonde boy anymore, he’s an engineer now, with a strong smile. Probably a strong backbone, too.
The truth is, I doubt he even remembers me. I’m easy to forget. But I don’t care.
I’m sending that child a wedding gift.