Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hear (07/08/10)
TITLE: Paint on the Grass
By susan woolen
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The thin boy, maybe seven or eight years old, dressed in shorts and a ragged T-shirt, had been shoved out of the car near the edge of our church lawn and now stood motionless, his hands grasped together, his eyes cast down at the ground. The car sped away and left him.
I stood up from the long table under the big, shade trees where I was sitting with a bubbly group of children and walked toward the little boy. “Hi, there,” I said gently. “This is our church kids’ group. Would you like to join us?”
There was no answer. I could see him trembling though he tried to hide it by squeezing his hands tighter. I could also see the dark blue bruises on both his forearms and on the backs of his legs. He pressed his arms close to his body to hide the injuries.
“What’s your name?” I asked quietly.
“Joey.” It was barely a whisper, more like a quiver. He didn’t voice it; but my heart heard Joey’s pain.
Stoically, he looked up at me and stared into my eyes. Then, barely turning his head, he glanced at the table where the other children and several adult helpers were talking and giggling and painting pictures on big pieces of white paper.
“There’s paint spilled on the grass,” he whispered and stared down at the ground again. “Will they punish me for it?” Puzzled, I searched his sad face. Then I understood.
“Joey, if paint gets spilled in the grass, we just mow it later. But usually it rains first and washes it away. Besides, here, we like colored grass.”
His head still down, Joey took my hand and we walked to the table.
“Hey buddy! Pick out a picture that you’d like to paint and I’ll help you get started,” one of the men called to Joey. He lifted his eyes to look at the other children but still would not lift his head. He stood looking at the assortment of pictures; then cautiously reached for one under the pile and froze. “Pick your colors, Joey,” I urged. “It’s ok. I bet you’re a good painter!”
He looked at the little plastic paint bottles in the center of the table, most of them smeared already with multiple colors from multiple little fingers. He chose purple, dark blue, and gold; then moved to the far end of the table. From time to time, he’d glance up at his busy companions but never spoke a word - just kept working. Once, he looked with fear toward the spot on the road where he’d been left.
One of the kids sauntered over to look at Joey’s painting and said,“Hey! That’s pretty cool!” For the first time that morning, Joey smiled. He had colored the background with the blue and purple and used the gold to fill in the large letters of the two words written on the picture.
“Joey,” I asked, “do you know what your picture says?”
He hesitated a few moments, then looked up shyly and murmured, “Trust Jesus.”
Holding back tears, Joey’s bruises still very visible, I smiled. “You are so right, Joey. And you did a great job painting.”
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