Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Girl With Red Marker on Her Face

Sunday, I went to church. Migraine and all.

I don't go to a big fancy church. I go to a small church. Most of its members are in the over-fifty range. They are salt-of-the-earth types, and they know how to get things done.

They also know how to cook.

Which is great, because Southern Baptist churches are notorious for feeding the flock. :0)

We have at least one potluck a month, and when I can attend, I do. Not just for the food (all of it made with real butter and real cream and real veggies and real meat and.... Well, you get the point!). I go because I love the people. They have maintained a community mindset that is sometimes missing from my peers. They think of the group before they think of themselves. They are always ready with kind words, hot tea, meals. There is never a sense that their time is more important than someone elses. Nor do they look at any task as menial.

I think if we could shrink the wonderful group down to bee-size, they'd fit quite well into a hive. Bustling and buzzing and working for the good of all.

But, that wasn't what I came here to write about.

I came to write about the girl with red marker on her face.

She was in church Sunday.

She's been there before.  A foster child who is sometimes in respite care with one of the older members of our church family, the girl has some challenges. She is probably my Sassy's age. She can barely write her name, though. She has a speech impediment and moves awkwardly. She has no social boundaries. No sense of other people's space. She is a little rough, a little rowdy. She moves a lot. From one seat to the next to the next.

She loves my Cheeky girl. But, who doesn't? Cheeky is the most accepting and loving child I have ever known. So,  the girl sits by Cheeky when she is not wandering the sanctuary.

Sunday, I saw her from afar and thought she had terrible burns on her face. My  stomach knotted up and my insides went icy cold. As I drew closer, I realized what I thought were burns were actually scribbles. Red scribbles. All over her face.



Her nose was bright red with it. Her cheeks were smeared. It looked like she'd taken a sharpie and scribbled everywhere. I heard one of the kids ask why she had marker on her face. Her response didn't make much sense. Something about trying to be a character from TV.

That was the last I heard about the marker.

This girl? She sat next to an older couple for a while. They talked to her before church began. When she  moved to sit next to Cheeky, no one stared. She talked to someone who was sitting beside her, and I didn't even see the elderly woman blink at the red stuff spread all over the child's cheeks.

About halfway through the service, the kids went up to the front. The pastor always spends a couple minutes every week talking just to them. The girl with the red marker on her face plodded up to the front in shoes that were two sizes too large and about twenty years too old. They flopped off her feet, the use-to-be-shiny black leather scuffed and dull. Her socks were striped and her dress was checked. Like the shoes, it was several sizes too big.

The pastor gave his mini sermon, and the girl with the red marker on her face listened. When she was asked what she was thankful for, she said her family, and I wondered what family meant to her. Her bio family? Her foster family? Her respite family?

Here she was, this girl with the red marker on her face, with her too-big shoes, too-old clothes and her awkward ways. Here she was with red sharpie scribbled all over her face. Here she was with nothing that any of my kids have. Somehow, in the midst of all the things that were stacked against her, she was thankful.

She sat down next to Cheeky again, and she took one of the visitor cards. She scribbled on it for a few minutes but must have finally realized what it was. She leaned over Cheeky and grabbed my arm.

"I want a visit from the pastor," she said. "But that's already scribbled out on the card."

I looked at the card. She'd written her name in shaky letters at the top and written her respite care parent's name in the middle.

"See?" she said, jabbing at a typed line that should have read I would like to visit with the pastor. . "It's already scribbled out."

Sure enough. It had been. Scribbled so dark with black ink, the words could barely be seen.

I looked at the scribbles on the card and the scribbles on her face, and I wanted so badly to fix everything that was broken.

"Don't worry," I told her even though the pastor was preaching and people all around could probably hear every word we were saying. "I'll fix it for you."

I took her pen and wrote in big letters across the top - I want a visit from the pastor.

I handed it back to her, and she smiled and thanked me and tucked the note in the pocket of her dress.

I hope she gave it to the pastor.

And, I hope she gets a visit from him.

Because, I can't stop thinking about the girl with the red marker on her face. I can't stop wondering if there was something more that I could have done for her. Because, it seems that writing I want a visit from the pastor isn't nearly enough. Not when it comes to little girls with red marker on their faces and thanksgiving in their hearts.  Not when it comes to any child.

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