His name was Chris. I don’t remember his last name. He was about 8 years old and lived a few blocks from the Louisville, Ky., church where I served as associate minister of music. I only knew him a couple of months.
Chris had the husky build of a future football player. His eyes shone bright blue, and he had freckles sprinkled on his nose.
Wild sprigs of cow-licked blond hair stuck out all over his head – the result of a bad haircut made even worse by classroom scissors.
Chris’ friendly smile and pleasant temperament were charming, and he was unusually comfortable with engaging adults in casual conversation.
I don’t think Chris was ever really clean. He always had more than the normal childhood smudges on his skin and ill-fitting clothes. He never seemed fresh, often looking seedy and smelling bad.
There was no doubt that Chris was neglected. What was unusual was the absence of some typical behavioral problems for a child in his situation.
I first met Chris when he wandered into the church parking lot one day, little brother in tow.
He approached some adults, and they steered both boys toward our children’s activities.
On his own, Chris began to attend older children’s choir, which I directed. He seemed oblivious that the other children were openly reluctant to sit by him.
I’m not sure he ever sang on pitch, but he would smile and participate intelligently, and just looked “happy to be here.”
Ministering to his family was difficult, despite our repeated efforts. We never could figure out the situation. Our impression was that they moved frequently.
During choir one Wednesday evening, Chris asked us to pray for his family because his dad was in jail for trying to kill his mom. (I hoped he and his brother hadn’t witnessed it.)
Their house was vacant soon afterward, and we lost track of them.
A few weeks earlier, I was introducing a new song to the choir. When I asked the children to think of reasons why we love God, their responses were typical, mostly having to do with creation and God loving us first.
Suddenly, Chris’ face lit up as he waved excitedly, gushing, “I love God because God gives us second chances!”
I thought to myself that if there was ever a child who was going to need a million second chances just to survive, it was Chris. He already had so much to overcome.
My encounter with Chris was brief, but God often uses my memory of this special child to remind me of the many grace-filled “second chances” I’ve been given.
By now – assuming he’s still alive – Chris is all grown up. Odds are, we will never meet again here on earth. But I will always remember him. I will always wonder how he’s doing.
Most of all, I will always wonder if our brief ministry to him – sowing the seeds of God’s love – ever took hold in his life.
I can only hope that Chris has already experienced enough of God’s abundant love and grace to overcome his adverse circumstances and grow into the fine young man that God created him to be.
“Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children.”
Naomi K. Walker is an ordained Baptist minister. Now retired, she served as music/worship pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, from 1995 to 2017.