Sammy Jones was perched at the edge of the examining table clutching the vinyl-covered pad with white-knuckled fists. Sheila, his mother, sat beside my desk, her handbag in her lap. She cast worried eyes upon me as I entered the room.
Besides being neighbors and close friends, I had been the Jones’s family doctor for at least fifteen years. We attended the same church and had backyard barbecues together in the summer. Their son, Wes, was best friends with my oldest boy, Sherman. They planned to go to the same college after they graduated in the fall.
“Hey, Sam, how’re you feeling? Missed you in Sunday school yesterday.” Six-year-old Sammy nestled his chin tighter into his chest. His lower lip quivered.
“He’s been like this since we got home Saturday evening.” Sheila’s voice was wrought with concern. I knew she and her husband had been at a dinner party that night. My son Sherman babysat for them.
“Can you tell me what you are feeling? Do you hurt anywhere?” I asked, probing gently with my questions.
Two large tears flooded Sammy’s eyes and he covered his face with his hands as if to shut out his mother and me.
“Hey, sport. You can tell me what’s wrong. I can’t help you if I don’t know.”
Sammy began to rock back and forth, his shoulders heaving with silent sobs.
Sheila tried to embrace him, but he pushed her away. He hunched over, wrapping his thin arms around his abdomen.
“Maybe you should tell me why you brought Sammy in. What made you concerned?”
She took a deep breath and stepped back from the examination table. “I saw blood in his jammies and in the toilet after he went to the bathroom Sunday morning. He seemed to be bleeding from his bottom.” She blushed. “That’s why we stayed home yesterday.”
I remembered Sherman’s demeanor on Saturday night when he came home. He was flushed and seemed upset about something. The next morning he went forward at the altar call and had an impassioned conversation with Pastor Stevens. Sherman received prayer but lingered, weeping at the altar until he was gently led to the pastor’s office. Long after the service had ended, Sherman talked with Pastor Stevens and two of the church elders. We went home without him.
“Had you noticed it before Sunday?” I tried to think of all the normal reasons for Sammy’s symptoms but my mind was ringing with alarms.
She shook her head. Sammy continued to hug himself and cry.
“Sam, this is serious. I need to have you tell me what happened.” My voice betrayed my suspicions. I fought rising nausea in my stomach. Visions of my son flashed through my thoughts. Was Sherman capable of that sort of horrendous act?
“Please, Sam,” his mother pleaded, close to tears herself.
“He said I mustn’t tell,” the boy muttered. “He said the blood would go away.”
I shuddered inwardly before asking the next question. “Who, Sam?”
“Tell us, Sam,” Sheila prodded. She glanced at me, the first glimmers of understanding in her expression.
I gulped. “Was it Sherman? Was it my son?”
For the first time since I entered the room, Sammy stared at me, his eyebrows puckered in a frown. “No, Dr. Jacobs. He tried to stop him.”
Not my son. Not Sherman. Thank you, Lord. Relief flooded my being. Then I heard Sheila’s stifled gasp behind me.
“Wesley?” Her face whitened and she slumped into a chair. I had forgotten about my son’s best friend. Sherman’s distress and need for prayer began to make sense to me.
Sammy slipped to the floor from the table and ran to his mother. He put his arms around her neck and begged, “Momma, don’t hate Wesley. I think he’s sorry for what he did. And I forgave him already for hurtin’ me.”
She embraced Sammy, stroking his hair. Looking up at me, she grimaced through her tears and asked, “What now? Help us to know what to do.”
What could be done? I felt helpless. My medical training was worthless in the rippling impact this one sinful act caused. I could repair Sammy’s physical injuries, but how could I repair the damage done to our souls? I knelt beside my neighbors as we wept together and prayed for the Great Physician to heal the deep wounds of our hurting families. He was the only one who could.
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