Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another Chance

This isn't one of those blog posts that anyone wants to write. Honestly, I'm not even sure where I'm going with this. I've been sitting on it for about a week and was finally able to shed some tears this morning.

Sometimes God allows you to see the fruit of labor done for Him years down the road. Sometimes, you'll never know.

So this is the story of two boys. Not really their stories, but stories told through the lens of how I saw and knew them.

Tyler was a funny kid. A bit of an imp. The kid who kept me on my toes and left me shaking my head when he left the classroom. But he was also an angry kid. His parents had just split up. His dad was across the country. And he was 8 years old. I averaged 700-800 students a year. It's hard to develop relationships that way. But Tyler was different. I signed up to be his mentor. We spent a lot of lunch periods together. We talked about his parents. We talked about school. With his mom's permission, we talked about God. We would go out to Burger King after school sometimes. Or bowling. Or my favorite...Dairy Queen. I remember a good, solid 20 minutes of nothing but giggles over soft serve. I don't think he ever spoke a word. Dan got involved, too...we took him canoeing, geocaching, and even to a Drum Corps show. Tyler later became very involved in music...even became the drum line captain for his high school marching band.

A few years back, Tyler invited us to his graduation open house. I hadn't seen him in 8 years...and yet he enveloped me in a huge bear hug and told me, "Mrs. Wilson, you saved my life!" (Now...I take NO credit for this...God used me to build a relationship with a special young man...He did the rest of the work.) He credited his love for music and later involvement in band with giving him the solid friends and work ethic he needed to become a man. He credited Dan & I for fostering that love at an early age. Needless to say, I still think the world of Tyler.

The other young man I had the privilege of mentoring was Chance. He was another second grader. The kind with a big cowlick and gentle brown eyes. Chance also came from a broken home. I don't know all the details. We only had a few months together. Then one day (right before the holidays, as I recall) he left school with someone who didn't have permission to take him. The police were involved. A search ensued. Chance was found. It was an ugly custody situation, and he never came back. The last I heard, he transferred to a school in a suburban district. I've spent the last 13 years wondering what happened to him.

Until last week. A simple news article on my Facebook feed. I almost didn't click it. I don't go for stories like this. A body was found and identified as a young man who was missing for almost 2 years. The name looked familiar. The picture still haunts me. Others see a hardened criminal covered in tattoos and piercings. One who died after a car accident while fleeing police. A drug dealer. Meth addict. A rap sheet a mile long. Nothing more than a thug. A loser. A two-bit car thief. (Descriptions written in comments on various articles.)

I saw Chance. The big brown eyes of a boy who trusted me. A kid who fell through the cracks. I wonder what happened in the 11 years since I saw him last and the date of the car accident. How did he become so broken? Why did God allow this? Who was there to catch him when he was shuffled around?

I don't feel guilt...there's absolutely nothing more or less that I could have done. But I am left wondering...and hurting...and questioning God. I don't think I'll ever know on this side. But if he was special to me, wasn't he even more precious to God?

I've lost students. Some to accidents. Gang activity. Drugs. Illness. It's never easy. But somehow, memories of Chance will always haunt me. And the irony of his name is not lost on me.

So while the rest of the area has let this news article come and go...with their quick-to-judge statements...I choose to remember that sweet brown-eyed boy. And wonder who God will use me to touch next.

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