Based in south Louisiana, Release & Gather is a blog by Holly Rabalais.  Her posts explore people, community, and matters of the heart.  Everyone has a unique journey.  Welcome to a window into hers.

Running Boy

This morning as I woke, my first thought was not one of gratitude.  Monday.  Ugh.  Back to the grind--that job that pays the bills.  My attitude seemed to improve as I sipped my coffee and rested in 1 Peter 2:9, writing the verse in my journal.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

I cross-referenced that phrase--"declare the praises of Him".  Verse after verse reminded me I was created by Him to glorify His Name in everything I do. I turned on worship music as I readied myself for work then praised Him as I rolled down the interstate, determined to "have a good day" as my husband had called to me before I left.  Nothing else mattered in those moments of my commute.

Still lost in my focus on Him, I drove down the last couple of streets to my office.  In an instant I realized what was in my path--a boy, barefoot, running in the middle of my lane with everything he had in him.  The peculiarity of the scene briefly stunned me.  He looked like a boy running for his life.

I was accustomed to the neighborhood I drove through most mornings and its vast difference from the suburban neighborhood in which I lived--moderate houses and lush lawns of comfortable sizes.  Here, in the heart of "old" Baton Rouge, was a street lined with apartment building after apartment building.  The sidewalks carried foot traffic as people made their own commute to the city bus stops that dotted every couple of blocks.  Children in shades-of-brown clusters gathered in the grey morning hours waiting for their school buses.  The area was certainly a place where someone like me stood out, and as I rolled down my passenger window, I wondered if the Running Boy would even come near to me.

"Baby, you need to get out of the street, okay?  Get on that sidewalk or you're going to get run over.  Alright?"

He excitedly spoke some words that were unintelligible to me.  I pulled into the parking lot of a church and got out.  The palest of beings (I was even wearing white jeans and a white sweater, y'all) bent down and looked into the rich brown eyes of a boy who seemed both frantic and carefree.

"Are you lost?"

He nodded and spoke some broken sounds that I supposed were words.

"Do you know where you live?  Who do you stay with?  Your mama?  Your grandma?"

More jabbering, stringing together words he seemed to know--"Okay.  Yeah.  I go."--as I leaned in, touching his arm and breathing in the unmistakable scent of urine.  I surveyed his filthy, but well-fitting shirt and shorts as well as his short, but matted hair.

A woman across the street slowed her gait, and I shrugged and held my arms out as if to say, "You have any ideas?"  She walked over and asked her own questions before realizing as I did that communication was futile.  We both figured he must be mentally challenged, and we agreed the best thing to do was walk the direction he came from to see if anyone was looking for him (because surely they were, right?).  I locked my car and left it.

As we approached one apartment complex his face grew animated as though he recognized the place.  I kept a running dialogue, speaking instructions to him as we crossed the street.

"Let's cross the street, okay?  We have to look both ways, though, and you hold my hand."

"Yeah.  Cross street.  Cross street."

Bessie, my unexpected partner in this bizarre event looked down at him to ask a question and noticed he'd pulled a phone from his pocket.  I tried to find anything in it that might prove helpful and recognized the words were some form of Spanish.  I tried to dial one of the numbers, but an automated voice told me I'd have to give a representative a credit card.  

I began clawing at any words that may have stuck with me from several semesters of Spanish ages ago, but all I could come up with was "Donde es tu casa?" and "Me llamo Holly", to which he excitedly responded, "Holly?!" while pointing at me.

Ditching the attempted translation in our investigation, we approached an older woman who was waiting to put her grandson on a school bus.  She nor any of the kids with her recognized our Running Boy.  I took off my sweater and put it around him when we realized he was shivering, and we decided to call the police.  I explained the situation and was assured someone would be dispatched "shortly".  The grandmother had a child run in and get a blanket.

15-20 minutes passed with no sign of authorities, so the grandmother took our Running Boy to the apartment on the end where her sister fed him eggs, toast, and milk, which he heartily devoured.  After half an hour of waiting, I called the police again.

"Okay, ma'am.  We've called someone, but tell me again--who is waiting in the parking lot?"

"Ma'am I have been standing in the rain at the side of the road craning my neck for any sign of a police car.  As I said before, I am wearing a turquoise shirt.  And...well...I'm the whitest lady out here.  They aren't going to miss me."

In just a few minutes an officer arrived as promised.  I recounted the story and told him that while I was no psychologist, I could recognize neglect and abuse when I saw it.  Officer Thompson assured me Social Services had been notified and that he would get our Running Boy somewhere safe so someone could take care of him.

There was nothing more for me to do.  I went into that apartment and bent over Running Boy and offered him the only thing I could give him--a prayer of protection and mental, physical, and emotional healing in the name of Jesus Christ.  And I whispered to him, "Jesus loves you.  Okay?  Jesus loves you," as I looked into those brown eyes.

The hardest part of each day is knowing that I can't save the world.  But maybe I just saved one little Running Boy.  And if I did, to God be the glory.

Update: I've learned that Running Boy's mother was arrested and is being held on a $20,000 bond. She claimed that Running Boy was autistic.  The news story states he was placed in the custody of the Department of Family Services.

Builders of the Wall