Glenn and I have been doing urban ministry together for almost 5 years in some way, shape or form. We met while working at a homeless shelter in Savannah, we moved to Atlanta for a little over a year to work with a homeless ministry there before coming back to Savannah to run “The Dream Campaign”. There are some stories from our first days in urban youth ministry that will stick with me forever. I frequently revisit these stories to remember and stay grounded in reality. I want to re-tell you the story of a little boy in Atlanta who will forever have an imprint on my heart.
I was sitting in a worship service when I looked to my right and on the very end of the row was a child sitting by himself. He had a jacket on, and it was zipped all the way up covering half of his face with his head down, avoiding looking at anyone. His clothes were almost filthy. His jeans had dirt all down the front. His shoes were worn and covered in dirt. I wondered when the last time he had a bath might have been. I scooted to the end of the row and said,
"Hi, I'm Morgan. What's your name?" (and stuck out my hand).
"Sam." (and he shook it).
"Well, it's nice to meet you Sam. Would you like to come sit in the middle so you can see better?"
(He shook his head and walked over and sat right next to me even though there were several chairs to choose from.)
"How old are you, Sam?"
"Did you come with anyone this morning?"
"No, I came by myself. My older brother usually comes but he isn't here today."
"Oh, So the Kids bus picked you up?"
(He shook his head, yes).
We talked some more and I found out that he likes football and sports and is in the 2nd grade. He eventually removed the hood of his jacket to reveal cute little braids, beautiful eyelashes and an adorable smile. He then carefully unzipped his jacket revealing yet another dirt stained shirt. He was the most adorable, precious little boy. My heart was gripped.
As praise and worship started, he clapped and sang along. I could not focus. I had to do something. I scooted out the door and ran down to the clothing closet. I grabbed him a long sleeve thermal shirt. When I came back into the sanctuary I said, "Would you like a long sleeve shirt for when it’s cold?" He looked up with big eyes and shook his head rapidly and I handed it to him. Another minute passed by and I whispered in his ear, "Do you know what size pants and shoes you wear?" He told me his sizes and I ran back to the clothing closet, but we were out of most things his size. I grabbed what I could find along with a pair of shoes I was sure were too big. I put them in a bag and ran back to the Sanctuary. I handed them to "Sam" and whispered in his ear again. "I think these shoes are gonna be too big, but keep them because you'll be able to wear them soon. Next time you are here I will have a pair of shoes for you that fit."
I sat there with my arm around him and attempted to sing through tears..."This is my desire, to honor You, Lord with all my heart, I worship You.” I looked over and Sam was singing with his hands out, palms upward." He looked towards a lady next to us who was "Praise Signing" and he started to mimic all of her movements. It was devastating beauty.
The first thing Glenn said when we talked after the service is..."Who let's an 8 year old go anywhere alone?" There are many answers to that question, but what I kept thinking was..."What 8 year old, gets on a bus by himself to go to church across town?"
The next Sunday, as soon as the Children's Bus arrived, I went outside to look for him. I found him playing tag in the back of the building with some other children. He ran over to me and I said, "Do you remember that I told you if you came back this week, I'd have something for you?" He smiled and I said, "Come with me." We had bought the following for him: a new shirt, pair of jeans, bag of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a pack of underwear, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of waterproof boots. As I unpacked each item he almost looked in a state of shock. When I pulled out the socks he exclaimed, "WOW SOCKS! I didn't have socks to put on today! I had some yesterday, but I didn't have any today!" (There are many of our students today who are always asking us for socks and underwear).
With that, I looked down at his dirt covered shoes and said, "Sam would you like to wear one of your new pairs of shoes?" He nodded and I asked him which pair he would like to put on. In the sweetest little voice he said, "Well........it's kinda wet outside so I think I should wear the boots." After he put on his new socks, I knelt down and tied his shoes tight. He then wanted to put on his gloves and hat right away. We snapped this picture before he went into the Sanctuary. I never wanted to forgot that moment and what Sam taught me. This truly is one of my favorite pictures of all time.
When I went into the Sanctuary, Sam introduced me to his brother and his cousins. I found out today they all came from similar circumstances. I went and sat on the front row and left Sam sitting with the kids a few rows back. A few minutes later, Sam walked up to me and said, "I want to sit up here next to you."
Sam found JOY and thanksgiving in new socks.
When is the last time any of us were truly thankful for socks?
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