The chill wind had become cold with the setting of the sun. The night was black, yet the hour was still early, too early for Sonata to think about work. The glaring neon sign of the 24-hour department store beckoned, yet it was her sparse clothing that convinced Sonata to wait inside.
She browsed each department, looking at items without interest, knowing she had no money she could spend. It had only been two years since she walked through aisles like these, dropping items into a burgeoning cart simply on a whim. Shopping was different when parents paid for everything.
In the Electronics department her attention was drawn to a family standing around a wide-screen television. She heard the man’s voice as he flipped through channels.
“Hey, that’s last Sunday’s service. Look, kids, there’s Bro. Ron! Where were we sitting, honey? Maybe, we’ll see ourselves on television!”
Without expression, his wife answered, “Let me think, maybe half-way down the right side – where we always sit! Come on, it’s getting late. We need to get the kids home.”
Sonata watched as the family made their way toward the registers. She turned back to the set just in time to see the churches’ phone number plastered in bold print: 1-800-NEED-GOD.
Cute, she thought, but she continued to watch as the pastor addressed the television audience. His first impression wasn’t bad. He appeared warm and caring, and there was an earnestness to his voice. She hadn’t heard a man’s voice with that quality since she had last spoken with her father. These memories wouldn’t help. It was time to get to work. She didn’t want to be thinking about “father figures” while she carried out her duties.
It had been a particularly unpleasant night. The smell of stale whiskey and drugged smoke grasped at her hair. Even the cold air seemed unable to cut the stench. As she made her way to the house where she slept, Sonata noticed the pay phone at the street corner. She had seen it daily, but this time she felt a need to talk to someone. A NEED - she dialed, 1-800-NEED-GOD.
“1-800-NEED-GOD. This is Pastor Bryant. How may I help you?”
“Um-m-m, I saw your show on TV last night.” Sonata was caught off-guard hearing the same voice she had heard on the television program.
“Great! How can we help you?”
“I just wanted to talk to somebody. Sorry. I really shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“No bother. I’d like to talk to you.” Pastor Bryant’s easy tone kept Sonata talking.
After about fifteen minutes Sonata ended the conversation with, “I’ve gotta go. He’ll get mad if I’m late.”
“Is there anything you would like for me to pray for?”
“Sure. Lots. Maybe I’ll call back tomorrow.”
“Alright. Just remember, your life matters to God.”
Over several phone conversations, Pastor Bryant discovered that Sonata had been 18 when she announced she was leaving. Her parents didn’t feel they had a legal choice as to what she did. She hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to get a job. Then, out of desperation from hunger, she allowed a man to buy her a drink, with the promise of a full meal to follow. Instead, she came to in a back lot. A girl passing by saw her movement and took her to “the house”. She found the man who ran the house was fairly tolerable, unless you failed to bring in money.
Pastor Bryant was very interested when Sonata began the conversation with, “Can you tell me when it will be December 12th?”
“Well, looks like Dec. 12th is next Friday. Is that an important date?” He tried to not push her for information.
“It’s my birthday. I’ll be 20.” Her voice sounded too somber to be that young.
Pastor Bryant took the chance and asked, “Sonata, have you thought about calling your parents?”
“I’d love to be home, have a birthday like we used to. But, I’m not sure my parents would want me. Not like this, anyway. I couldn’t bear to see them looking like this. ”
“My wife and I could give you a place to clean-up, rest, and then, call them, if you’d like.”
The pastor heard stifled sobbing across the telephone line. He waited in silent prayer. In a voice resilient with youthful hope, Sonata asked, “Could I use one of the 1-800-NEED-GOD phones?”
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