I was straightening the diploma on my new office wall when a detective knocked on the door. “I hear you’re good with kids. Can you come down to the precinct?” Might as well jump in with both feet, Meg…
I grabbed a legal pad and followed the detective. May sunshine flooded the squad car as he filled me in: a little boy about five years old had been found wandering alone downtown. A canvass of the nearby townhouses and mom-and-pop stores had yielded no one who recognized the little guy. No matches had been found on the nationwide database of missing children. And he wasn’t talking—not even his name.
At the station, I studied him for a moment through two-way glass. A policewoman had brought cheese crackers and a soda to the little fellow, but he just sat in the too-big chair, head down, feet dangling. His thin shoulders drooped, and he was the saddest person I’d ever seen. Help, Lord…I opened the door, and nodded the policewoman away.
“I don’t like cheese crackers either.” I sat next to him. “Want a peppermint, George?” I held out a candy. He looked up when I said “George,” but then he lowered his head again. “Your name isn’t George, is it?”
Another shake of the head.
“What is it, sweetie?”
Silence, but he reached for my tablet.
“Do you want to draw?” I fished a pencil from my purse. The boy drew an instantly recognizable shape: a tulip. “That’s a great tulip you’ve got there. Do you like flowers?”
A tear welled in his eye and he pushed the picture at me, jabbing at it with the pencil.
Okay, Lord, this flower means something. Let’s figure it out together… “Well, George—I’m just going to call you George, okay? Are there flowers like this where you live?”
George shook his head, turned the paper over, and drew another tulip.
Over the next three days, I spent hours with George in his foster home. I couldn’t get him to talk, but he drew dozens of pictures—always the same spring flower. He thrust them at me, wide-eyed and earnest, but sank to the floor in frustration when I could not guess their meaning. I came to believe, though, that the tulip was somehow associated with momma.
Father, where is George’s mother? Why isn’t she looking for this precious boy?
Saturday morning, I took a springtime walk down the streets of my new city, praying for an answer to the tulip puzzle. I passed several colorful awnings and store displays—then stopped dead in my tracks at the painted door of a tiny storefront church. It was a large tulip in full bloom, looking uncannily like George’s drawings. The sign on the door read “Full Gospel New Life Urban Mission. Always Open.”
I can’t get away from tulips, Lord. Guess You’re sending me inside…
I sat in a back pew, listening to the gospel choir practice.
“Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodland
Robed in the blooming garb of spring…
Jesus is fairer…”
Closing my eyes, I prayed for George.
“Can I help you?” A man standing by the pew smiled down at me. “I’m Tony, pastor of this little flock.”
“Happy to meet you, Tony.” We shook hands. “I’m Meg, and I think the Lord brought me here.” I told him about George and the tulip pictures, intending to ask Tony for the prayers of his congregation. Instead, he took a photograph from his Bible.
“Is this the boy?”
I gasped. “Where did you get this?” It was George, holding hands with a smiling young woman. “Who is this?”
“Oh, this is gonna be good. Take a ride with me?”
We flagged a taxi, and for the second time in a week, I was told part of George’s story. A woman, badly beaten, had been found inside the church doors several days ago. Tony called the ambulance, pocketing the photo when it fell from her jacket. He had visited her and prayed for her every day; doctors believed that she would soon regain consciousness.
“She must have brought George along when she came to you for refuge.” I shuddered, imagining their terror. “Poor little guy wandered off when she passed out, I guess.”
That afternoon, we brought George to the hospital. He ran to her, crying “Momma, momma!” Laying his head on her chest, he wound his dimpled fingers in her hair. “Momma!”
She opened her eyes and whispered his name.
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