We had just pulled off the freeway to fill up with gas and to provide the opportunity to use the facilities. My job, as always, was to assist our pooch Lucy in this bodily task as she dragged me to the nearest space that resembled something of actual earth. “Hey mister, is that your rig?” I quickly turned around to see standing there no more than five feet from me a young lad – maybe seven years of age – with messy hair and big thick glasses.
“Yes,” and before I could utter another word he interrupted, “We were going to get one like that, but we couldn’t afford it. You’re not from around here, are you? I’m walking home from church and I had to come see your rig.” Looking around the immediate area that most would describe as a truck stop not a half mile from the freeway my mind was focused on why this young fella was out here all by himself.
“No, we’re just passing through. How about you, do you live around here?” I asked. “Yeah, I live up the road,” he responded as he pointed to houses that were just at the edge of the horizon. As I began to ask about his adult supervision he launched into a rapid succession of questions ranging from sports to food.
And then he dropped the hammer, “So who are you voting for?” Completely caught off guard, I responded, “Excuse me?” I was mentally forming a more cogent response about this line of questions when he began his forceful proclamation. “Please tell me you’re not voting for Biden. You know if he becomes president the government will take all our money! We will never be able to go back to school and there will be riots and murder in our towns!”
I was absolutely dumbfounded not only with the content of what was just said, but even more that this rhetoric was coming from such a young human. And just as I was preparing to navigate a response, a voice from heaven (okay from the afore mentioned rig) shouted, “Hey, did Lucy do her business? Let’s go!”
As the miles passed by my mind was completely consumed with my exchange with this youngster. Why was he all alone in an unquestionably high risk area? And why is a child carrying the burden of our political mess? What kind of world have we created for him?
As most folks know I have worked with young people in a variety settings my entire adult life. A number of these youth live in very high risk situations. Home life, neighborhood life, school life for many are often places of extreme challenge. My consistent objective is to bring healing and hope to their worlds. It is clear to me from my recent engagement with this young lad that the healing and hope so desperately needed in our world is clearly going to be in our midst for a very long time. And it’s only going to happen if every one of us rolls up our sleeves and commits to the long game work.
Grant us, O Holy One, strength and courage for the road ahead…