When I met Shawn* he was about 6 years old and in our daughter’s second grade class. He had dark red hair, was smaller than most of the boys but had a temper twice his size. This little boy was brought into this world and dropped off on Hell’s doorstep. Early on, he was labeled as a problem child that nobody wanted to deal with. The teachers dreaded having him in their classroom. The principal didn’t know how to handle him when he lost his temper. He was continuously in and out of trouble, disrupting the class, which soon led to his expulsion from school. Shawn came from a very shattered and broken home and was never taught how to live life in a positive way. What he did learn was wrong and he learned too much too fast. To him, fighting became the answer to his way of life and his means of survival.
Over the next several years I often times heard of the trouble Shawn was in but didn’t know him personally and never had any reason to get involved in his life. I was a wife and mother busy raising my own family and dealing with my own problems. But what if I had taken a sincere interest in him? Is there anyway I could have made a difference in his life that might have changed the road he was to travel? I look back now and wonder, "What if...", "How come I didn't...", and "I should have...".
Shawn spent most of his life in trouble and locked up. If he wasn’t in jail for fighting, he was looking for love in all the wrong places-having now fathered several illegitimate children.
Our oldest daughter is a very compassionate person and always liked Shawn. As they got older, they began hanging out together, later becoming best friends. I don’t believe it was ever a romantic relationship but one of respect and admiration towards each other for who they were and what each had been through in their past.
Our daughter has an extraordinary, Christ-like loving personality towards broken people. She loved Shawn unconditionally- the way we are to love our brothers and sisters-but refuse to because they do not measure up to our standards. Together, they found many common interests-with tattoos, cigarettes, Johnny Cash, grungy clothes-the whole bit. But…..isn’t that what Jesus would do? He comes down to our level rather than waiting for us to come UP to His?
Over time, our daughter moved away and Shawn went back to jail for assaulting a police officer.
Recently, I saw him again and couldn’t believe how he had changed over the past year. His once heart-warming beautiful smile was now full of broken off jagged teeth-the result of the last fight he went to jail for. This twenty-something year old young man looked so old, worn out, tired, and lost. The life he’d lived showed heavily in his body movements. The fond memories I had about Shawn came flooding back overwhelming my heart. If he could just find……love, peace, joy, happiness… GOD! And, someone who would take a positive interest in him, show him that no matter what he has done in the past, he is a child of the Most High God, and the son of our heavenly Father. And that Jesus loves him so much that His heart aches for him. He is like a stray animal that no one wants around, one so desperate for love and affection, one that needs a home and to belong.
I knew my husband was not going to be as touched by my encounter with Shawn as I was. We have never shared the same views and opinions when it comes to him and, needless to say, like most any other father, he does not want someone with a prison record hanging around his family or his home.
Still I could not turn my thoughts away from thinking about Shawn. As in the past, I felt the familiar tug on my maternal heartstrings.
“Lord, I wasn’t expecting to see Shawn again but if you put him in my path for a reason show me why. I don’t know what to do. He appears and disappears for long periods of time. If I can only pray, Lord, then I will pray. If there is anything else you want me to do, show me, help me."