It was when the young boy stooped down for the third time to tie his shoe laces that I finally gave him my full attention. It was Monday evening and I was on my way home. I had just begun the eight block walk home from the elevated train station at Smith and 9th Streets, heading towards the corner where Columbia and Lorraine Street met, the location of the building in the Red Hook housing project where I lived. The weather had been very chilly for the last few days even though it was only early November; most of the people walking along the streets were already wearing their winter coats. I was bungled up as best I could in a long unlined denim jacket that was at least one size too small for me. I hadnít been able to afford a winter coat as yet this year. Maybe by the beginning of December I would have saved up enough towards a new one. I didnít own a sweater, either, so I was uncomfortably cold.
I had decided to walk home this evening, though I usually caught the B77 bus at the corner below the train station. The bus conveniently stopped right at the intersection of Columbia and Lorraine. Iíd debated with myself which would be easier on my feet, waiting for the bus which usually took its own sweet time or walking the long eight blocks. I didnít want to think about things, I needed to be distracted. I figured the tiredness I would feel from walking would be the best option. I could pretend I was turning over a new leaf by taking the walk; wasnít that what a healthy, heart-smart person like me would do? Ha ha. My too tight denim jacket put the lie to that.
By the time I had reached the first corner, I caught a glimpse of a short figure moving ahead and to the right of me. It was a young boy about ten or eleven years old. He appeared to be running but for some reason he wasnít putting much distance between himself and me. He was dressed in dark corduroy pants and a sky blue ski jacket with a striped blue and white sweater hat covering his head. As he reached the middle of the block he stooped down, apparently to tie his shoes. He fumbled with the laces for a moment but by the time I reached him he must have finished for he jumped up in that all-at-once motion that kids use so frequently, full of energy. He continued his puzzlingly slow run to the next corner, reaching it just as the sign changed from DONíT WALK to WALK. He sprinted across Hamilton avenue heading up the block towards Clinton street. By the time I reached Hamilton Avenue the light had turned red again. I waited for the light to change, pondering what I might cook for dinner. Maybe my husband would have bought pizza or Kentucky Fried Chicken as he sometimes did, though not so much lately, what with all of the money problems. The sound of the cars moving in the street along side me made me realize that the light had changed again so I started across. I was walking a little slower now; it didnít take much to tire me out with all of the extra weight I was carrying. In addition, I had brought a really thick book to read on the train ride to and from work; I was carrying it in my shoulder bag, the weight of it hurting, causing me to lean slightly to the right.
When I reached Clinton Street I was startled to catch a glimpse of the boyís blue jacket just a few feet ahead of me. He was crouching on the ground again and seemed to be tying his shoes. When I reached him he jumped up and darted off across Clinton Street to the block which led through the project grounds. There werenít many others on the street, just a few school kids walking along briskly several blocks ahead hurrying home, they, too, probably anxious to get out of the cold. I shifted my bag from my right shoulder to my left shoulder, chiding myself that I had not left that thick novel at home. I never read anymore on the trains these days anyway, I was always trying to nod off. I just couldnít seem to get enough sleep at night. As I moved slowly along, my breath coming more rapidly now, I thought, Oh, God, I just canít go on. Mostly, it was guilt. I had made a series of selfish, ill-advised purchases and money decisions over the past several years and as a result our financial situation had turned into a nightmare. It had begun to wear me down. I had just entered the work world after 23 years of being a housewife, hoping to help my husband pay down the pile of debts. After all, I was mostly to blame. My body had not yet adjusted to the new routine, however; the fatigue was total. It penetrated my body, soul and spirit. Too many bills, too much guilt, too little money, too little hope, too little sleep; I didnít know how much more I would be able to take. How many ways can you tell a bill collector that you just donít have it? I had prayed for Godís help, but He seemed not to have heard me. Maybe God doesnít help us when our problems are our own fault, I thought. I couldnít hear or feel anything. God was silent.
I hadnít realized that my steps had slowed almost to a stop as I continued to fret and grieve inside about the situation, but I looked up just in time. It was lucky that I did or else I would have bumped right into the boy. He was down on one knee again, fiddling with his shoes.
How strange this is, I told myself, finally. It almost seemed as if the child was purposely keeping pace with me. It was unlikely that he was afraid and was just trying to stay in the company of an adult. It wasnít very dark outside. He should have been out of my sight a long time ago. He had continued to move along with that queer running gait but he seemed to be getting nowhere. Apparently, we were headed in the same direction, though I didnít recognize him as living in any of the buildings in my court. Finally I reached him and came to a full stop since he was planted right in the middle of the narrow pathway, thus blocking my way. He stood up but didnít dart off this time. He lowered his head and began to adjust the strap on his book bag. I could hear that he was singing a song. He glanced slightly in my direction as he raised his head. He was smiling as he sang these words, ďEverything is possible if you just believe.Ē There was no real cadence to his words; they just came out in a clear childish voice. It was just that one line, but the words were plain and unmistakable. ďEverything is possible if you just believe.Ē I couldnít have heard what Iíd heard, I thought. I looked at him closely; I didnít want to stare. No matter, he darted away around the corner and by the time I mobilized my tired feet to reach the end of the block, he had vanished.
I stood where I was for a moment, looking first to my right and then to my left up and down Lorraine Street. Did he really sing those words? I thought again. Everything is possible if you just believe. Why in the world would a child be singing those words? Maybe they were the words to some song he had learned in a Sunday school class. Even as I pondered the words, my heart quickened inside of me. Oh, dear God, I thought. Those words are for me, arenít they? Theyíre just for me. You are speaking to me. You have heard my prayers, you do love me, you will help me, and I will make it. Itís possible, everything is possible. Even as the truth of Godís word continued to chant over and over in my mind, the wonder and blessing of Godís timing and intervention began to really sink in and fill me. For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37NIV
I rounded the corner to where my building stood. The child was nowhere in sight. It was just myself alone standing on the sidewalk in the early dusk of evening. Thank you Lord, I said aloud. I will make it, wonít I? I walked quickly up the steps to my building and went inside.