Observation By Susan Niswonger / last month Share Tweet Pin Share Yesterday, I met Shawn. A friendly, talkative 10 year old, sporting a “Desert Storm t-shirt” and desperately wanting to go swimming in Higgins Lake. Jenesa, and I were sitting on the beach watching Caleb frolic in the sand and water and Nathan was snoozing under the umbrella. Caleb assumed everyone was family and every toy was his to play with, after all it has always been this way in his world. Most of the other groups were family with children and thought the little blond 2-year old who excitedly pointed out the water, boats, birds, butterflies and other things we could not understand, was adorable; of course, we agree. Caleb had just come back to the blanket for a snack when Shawn walked up. Caleb said hi to his new “friend” and Shawn stopped to talk. He told us he really wanted to go swimming but his dad said he couldn’t without a “buddy, not even dip his toe in the lake.” Having raised 2 precocious boys, I totally understood his father’s explicit instructions. First it’s a toe, then an ankle, up to the knee and somehow “a wave came ashore and swept your whole body into the lake!” Shawn told us he had just moved here and not just for the summer, he was going to live here permanently with his dad. We learned they were trying to blend two households, having a garage sale and made almost $1,000 yesterday. He mentioned he had a little 3 year-old sibling and a 6 month old sister. His sister, however, lived with his mother in Grand Rapids with her new husband. He matter-of-factly stated that he was from a broken home and his dad had custody of all the other kids, except his 18-year old sister who had just gotten married. I listened half-heartedly, asking all the polite questions until Jenesa asked this question. Noting his “Desert Storm t-shirt, Jenesa asked, “Was your dad in Iraq? Shawn quipped, “Oh yes, that’s when my Mom was cheating on my Dad every night. My sister was practically my mom. If it hadn’t been for her, we would have been left alone.” My heart missed a beat, Shawn had my full attention. This wasn’t just a chatty little boy wanting to go swimming. This was a kid who calmly spoke of adult situations in terms that a child shouldn’t have to know. I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I know little boys. This was a boy craving the attention of a mother, even if it came in the form of a grandma feeding a two-year old and a mother cradling her sleeping, 3-month old. He wanted to identify with Caleb and Nathan, but found nothing familiar. Did he want, for just a moment to pretend that he was the one being nurtured by a loving mom and getting the snacks and juice box placed in his little 2-year old hand? I wanted to hug him but he was 10 and I was a stranger. I wanted to offer him snacks, but we live in a world where that may not be acceptable. He looked clean and well-fed but did he get a good-night kiss, did anyone ever read him a book at bed time, had anyone ever told him about Jesus? Shawn waved goodbye and went on his way back home to tell his dad there were lots of people at the beach that would notice if he got in trouble in the water, so could he please go swimming? Jenesa and I stayed for about another hour, but never saw Shawn again. His story stayed with me all evening. I hope that for just a moment we were a warm smile in his life: that our portrayal of motherhood will overshadow his reality or at least that’s the one he will dream about. I wish I could go back to yesterday. I would ask Shawn to sit down with us for a while. I would offer him a snack, put my arm around him and tell him about a friend that will stay beside him all his life. This friend will never cheat on him or break up his home. This friend will be his “buddy” when he is swimming, playing ball or feeling all alone. I would tell Shawn about Jesus!!!