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when being present is all you can offer

BY Cornelius "CJ" Jackson

Something in her eyes betrayed the frown on her face. Yes, the young eight year-old girl who had just exited the Common Ground Montgomery van was snarling — appearing to be angry and defiant. But sadness in her eyes told a different story. As she made her way to the gymnasium where other energetic kids were running around and playing, it was apparent that she was in no mood for fun. My first thought — she got in trouble on the van ride to the CGM campus. Or maybe some kids were picking at her and she was upset.

“What’s wrong, baby girl?” I asked.

“Nothing!!!”

The sharp reply did not originate from the pouting lips in front of me. Instead, an older girl had closed the distance between me and the young girl, running up from behind her and draping her arm around her shoulders; comforting her, protecting her. They were sisters.

Again, I inquired, “What’s going on?”

The small child’s mouth moved, but the words were inaudible. I stooped down in front of her—my face mere inches from hers. I could see her eyes tearing up quickly; big tears streaming down her round cheeks, splattering the front of her uniform shirt. She repeated her sentence, and I made out what she’d previously exclaimed: “I want my daddy!

Oh... I see.

This is common, familiar; children have bad days and want to call home. They don’t want to be anywhere but in the arms of their mom or on the laps of their dad.

“Maybe we can call your dad. Will that make you feel better?”

More tears - big sadness in her eyes - more tears.

“Our daddy is dead,” said the older sister, the protector.

And then I remembered. It was a few months back, he was murdered in Gibbs Village.

Man — I feel so stupid.

“Come here!” I call out. And I take them both into my arms and try to comfort them — my mind racing, thinking, imagining how a little girl must attempt to process such big pain. How could I focus on a test if death was my distraction? What would my public mood be like if melancholy was my personal acquaintance?

“I got you, baby girl… I got you!”  

2 Corinthians 1:3-4   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I do thank God for the privilege and the opportunity that CGM gives me to just be present, to be available — even if that is all I can offer.