“Come get this baby.” The Child Protective worker had warned me that she was making a surprise home visit today, to be ready for her call. As I shrugged my coat on and reached for my keys, my heart was heavy. After 10 years with Sister Madeline and the Center, I had not managed to numb myself to these calls.
The caseworker was sitting in her parked car in front of the address, a dilapidated duplex in a desolate part of town. She rolled her window down as I approached, and I heard the wails of the tormented child she was holding in the front seat.
“Is it a little boy? He sounds like he’s hungry.”
“I don’t doubt that he is. I don’t think he’s been fed or bathed much. He has some pretty serious diaper rash.” She set down the papers she had been juggling, and gathered together all the blankets. I opened the door to receive the child from her, scribbling my signature at the bottom of the form she handed me.
“Good luck with him. I always thank God that I have the Center to call when we get a case like this.” She ducked back into her car and started it. She would finish her paperwork at the office.
Trying to comfort the screaming child, I opened my trunk to retrieve the car seat that I carried for times like this. I wished that I could rock him and feed him, and make his misery disappear. Glancing at the neighborhood, I knew we should go quickly. The baby cried the whole way back to the Center, impossible to comfort. I could tell he’d been traumatized.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bottom this raw.” Sara was gently bathing him. She had been with the Center from the beginning, and had seen a lot.
“The caseworker told me that the home was a fright. The father just got five years for drugs, and the mother is a basket case with him gone. I doubt she ever had it together.” I was rummaging through our bins looking for some warm pajamas for our newest resident. Even after food and a bath, he would not stop screaming. His little toes were tightly curled and his pathetic malnourished body turned bright red with the effort of every protest.
“Did she tell you his name?” Sara asked, gently smoothing diaper cream over the sore area.
“Let’s see, it says Angus on the paperwork. It must be a family name. You don’t hear of it much.”
“You may not hear the name, but I’m betting that everyone hears Angus before it’s over.” At that she gave up on trying to out-shout little Angus.
After a week of his nonstop screaming everyone was exhausted. Even after his bottom was clear and his tummy full he could not fall asleep. No amount of rocking or singing would calm him. Eventually his own exhaustion would get the best of him, and he would drift off for a restless while, only to wake to another round of screaming.
“I hate to think of what that child must have been through.” Sara and I were folding clothes in the laundry room, hoping that the other babies would sleep through the noise.
“I can’t imagine. He was living in a war zone. I wonder if he’ll ever be at peace.”
Sara and I must think alike. Later that day I overheard her whispering to little Angus how much his heavenly father loves him. That evening I told him a story about God’s wonderful plan for his life. I know that Angus couldn’t understand the words we were saying, but his spirit received the life that we were giving him.
It was like we had planned it, but better. At every opportunity we whispered the Father’s Heart to that little guy. Gradually his toes uncurled. We kept whispering words of life, and one day Angus fell asleep and stayed asleep. He woke up with a smile on his face.
“I looked up the meaning of his name.” Sara said. We were folding laundry again and it was quiet. Even Angus was sound asleep. “I doubt his mother knew it, but the name Angus means Exceptional. God had a plan for her little boy all along.”
“I guess Angus will have to show the world how exceptional he is. He has certainly convinced us.” I was grinning like a proud parent.
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