Immersed in the task of scraping filth from the kitchen floor, an audience of two suddenly appeared. As I looked up, two pairs of inquiring eyes peered in from the open door.
Pooh Man and Baby J
It was Englewood and here in the ‘hood nobody used their given names.
The two brothers lived downstairs from the apartment we were cleaning and painting for the Chicago Urban Youth Ministry. They had heard the racket we were causing and had come upstairs to investigate.
After inviting them in, I learned that Pooh Man was ten and brother Baby J was six. They were very curious about what I was doing on the kitchen floor with a putty knife. After explaining that I was scraping up the grease and dirt left behind so somebody else could move in they were eager to help me.
We became fast friends in the fight against grime.
I showed Baby J how to position the scraper against the floor and with my hand over his we applied steady pressure to plow up the layers of grease. Each time we managed to move some of the sludge I would say, “That’s so disgusting!” Baby J would gleefully echo, “Disgusting!” in the way that all little boys do when they revel in getting dirty.
As we worked, we played games and told riddles. Practiced spelling words and addition facts. Every answer, correct or incorrect, received praise and encouragement. That morning I knew I was there to work on the apartment, but recognized that my divine assignment was to lavish love and encouragement on those two beautiful little boys.
As our rapport grew, Pooh Man told me about his family. One of his brothers had passed as a result of the violence in the neighborhood. Another was in jail. He spoke about it without emotion as if it was another ordinary fact of life.
The following day we returned to the apartment to bless it. Pooh Man and Baby J tore up the stairs to join our prayer circle. As we held hands and prayed aloud the Spirit of God descended upon us like a cloud. When I opened my eyes, Pooh Man’s tear-filled eyes were locked onto mine.
And I can’t get them out of my mind.
That little one, hair full of dreads, pants hung low, will never know how deep a place has been burrowed into my heart for him.
But God knows.
So I will continue to lift up prayers of intercession that the God of this city will rescue him.
And I am confident.
Confident that God who loves this child and every other child with an all-consuming love will hear my cries and answer.