She huddled in a doorway when I found her. Shivering, trying to cover herself in an old raincoat, she looked up at me with wide, dark eyes. I sensed a mixture of apprehension, hope and fear in those eyes. And, I guessed she couldn't be much beyond seven years old.
Since I had a bandage alongside my head from a recent mugging on these sordid city streets, I held her attention. From my wound to my eyes, she glanced back and forth, a look of sympathy filling her own eyes. And, she held out her arm. It seemed she wanted me to see that we were two of a kind. Dark bruises told me she had met with some sort of accident or abuse also.
"Can I help you home?" I extended my hand toward hers. She shook her head slightly, no, and pulled her arm back under the coat.
"Well, I cannot just leave you here. You'll freeze. It isn't safe." Taking off my jacket, I crouched down beside her and wrapped it around her. A look of absolute wonder crossed her face. She looked up at me, and it was as if I could read her mind: Can I come home with you?
"C'mon, little one. My Mom will know what to do. It isn't far."
After Mom had her bathed and dressed in warm clothes, we sat at the kitchen table savoring a bowl of meaty stew. Mom looked at me over the top of the little one's head. Her expression told me she had never seen anything so sad. I had an idea.
Supper finished, I took out my violin. "Do you like to sing, little one? By the way, what is your name. That's Ma over there, and my name is Andy."
I waited for her to speak. She just looked at the violin and then at me with curiosity. But, she didn't open her mouth. She heard me, I could tell, but she didn't make a sound.
"I do have to call you something. I know, I'll call you 'Sparrow,' you know, like the little bird?" She smiled. She had pulled her knees up to her chin and her skirt down over her feet, snuggling into the shawl Mom wrapped around her shoulders. I began to play.
Sparrow's little face was something else. My playing isn't that good, but she looked at me as if this were the most enchanting experience she had ever enjoyed. I could scarcely take my eyes off hers. The depth I saw in them made me think of a starry sky on a moonless night, as if I were looking into eternity.
But, I saw more. At one point a great sadness washed across her face. Her eyes filled with tears and her expression crumbled. Mom noticed, too, and scooped our Sparrow up in her arms and carried her off to bed. The poor child must have been exhausted.
She stayed with us and seemed to flourish. But, she kept silent. We knew there was no point in notifying the police in this part of the world. Street children are mostly a nuisance, so many of them wandering homeless and abused.
And then, one day in the Spring, I returned home from school and saw the frantic expression in my mother's eyes. Sparrow was gone. We had no explanation. I tried looking for her up and down all the alleys near the doorway where I had first discovered her. But, she had simply vanished. We had grown to love her so much, it was as if she had taken our hearts with her.
That was seven years ago. She would now be about the age I was when first we met. I feel sick whenever I think what might be happening to her. If only I could find her. I would be her protector forever.
Last night I had a dream. Sparrow stood at my bedside looking almost the same, only taller. And, for the first time ever, I heard her voice, because she was singing. I couldn't catch the words, but the melody stuck with me all day, today. What was that song?
Finally, it hit me. Sparrow had been singing the only song I know God meant just for her. The words came at last:
"I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me."*
*Civilla D. Martin, 1905
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