I would guess he was sixteen, although it was nearly impossible to tell with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled so far down over his eyes and his head on the table. He was tall. Maybe that's why I guessed sixteen. He was sitting, surrounded by others, but he was completely alone.
I had to step out of the room to get myself together.
I didn't know his name. I still don't. I have no idea what he looked like under that hooded sweatshirt. I would not be able to pick him out of a crowd.
But I will never forget him.
He is every child who can never go back home. He is a level of lonely I will never understand. He feels hopeless and unwanted and unworthy, but he is none of those things - he just doesn't have anyone to tell him.
He is the face of foster care.
I don't know why he stood out. Maybe because he was the least engaged. Maybe because there were only a handful of older kids represented in the group. Maybe because I have kids his age and the thought of one of them at that table was more than I could take.
Whatever the reason, I'm thankful for that young man. He reminded me that my job is not done, there is no time to rest.
The foster care system is broken. Too many kids and not enough families willing to take them. Caseworkers with too many cases. There is no one to blame. The state is doing the best it can. But are we?
Do you have room in your house for another bed? Do you have an extra seat in your van?
It will be hard. It will be inconvenient. It will be a mess.
But years down the road when you watch that hard mess graduate and set out on a coarse God designed just for him, every minute will have been worth it.
Right now there are children that need you. Right now that young man in the hooded sweatshirt grows another day older. Right now.
What can you do to be part of the solution? Commit it to prayer. Look to fill needs.
Do something. They won't be kids for long. They need families now.