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Heart Matters: Apples We Got

wegotapplesAkin to emptying the oceans with a tablespoon, we shovel out attention and love to a population of kids that grows both in size and neediness.

Flagging our bus down, he leaned over the edge of a busy street corner. I stepped out onto the flagstone sidewalk.

"Lorenzo?"

"You picking us up?" he asked.

Lorenzo figured if the church van was in his neighborhood, it was coming for him. This was logical, except for the fact that I hadn't seen Lorenzo since his family was evicted from their home two years ago.

"Uh...yeah." The words stumbled out of my mouth.

"I'll tell 'em I'm going to church.

That afternoon, Lorenzo made at least four trips to the snack table, played half a game of cards, demolished the Jenga tower, and made two requests for another orange. When it came time to begin club, he sat with me in the front of the room. Lorenzo lay quietly on his side, right next to my feet. He covered his insecurity with a front of boredom, but eventually this 8-year-old began to sing and even found a place at the table to make a red heart decorated with sequins.

A week later the van pulled up to his house. The porch was full of trash, 5-feet high and 6-feet deep of crushed beer cans, broken furniture, and discarded toys. There on a rusted nail on his door, though, was his big red heart decorated with sequins.

Lorenzo saw us through the window. I knew he had been waiting, and he eagerly came to club that day. When club was over, I yelled out that it was time to line up for the van.

"A.B.!" Lorenzo yelled across the room. "Come here..."

"What?"

He moved toward me and whispered, "Can I have just one apple to take home? Please. Just this once?"

His black backpack hung off one shoulder. I grabbed it, and he watched me as I went into the kitchen. I filled his backpack with apples and oranges.

Twenty minutes later Lorenzo hauled that bag up to his house. He turned to wave goodbye as he stood by the big red heart that looked so out of place. I felt like crying, but oddly enough all that came out of my mouth was a whisper, "Apples we got."

We daily face a problem that's bigger than our best ideas, more complicated than our well-thought-out-but short-sighted solutions-and deeper than what we could ever afford to give. Akin to emptying the oceans with a tablespoon, we shovel out attention and love to a population of kids that grows both in size and neediness. We feed these children every time they walk through our doors, but empty souls make empty stomachs look trivial. And these are just the ones who make it through the doors of our churches.

For every kid we pick up, there are at least a dozen others staring at our van from finger-smudged windows, street corners, and dirt lots. We've run out of van seats, room in the parish hall, resources, and volunteers. It's an impossible situation. An unfillable need. We can't keep up. Nor can we stop. We can't seem to walk away. And perhaps the only thing that sums up such a crazy attempt to ease some of this insatiable injustice is as simple as this...apples we got.

It's far better to feed one man and deal with the inner conflict of letting that feeding make you more aware of the hundreds your lunch did not satisfy than to keep what you have to yourself. Apples we got, and I know a boy who needs just that.

Amy Beth Larson is a missionary to children with The Third Story in inner city Denver.

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