Heart Matters: Apples We Got

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wegotapplesAkin to emptying the oceans with a tablespoon, we
shovel out attention and love to a population of kids that grows
both in size and neediness.

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Flagging our bus down, he leaned over the edge of a busy street
corner. I stepped out onto the flagstone sidewalk.


“Lorenzo?”

“You picking us up?” he asked.

Lorenzo figured if the church van was in his neighborhood, it
was coming for him. This was logical, except for the fact that I
hadn’t seen Lorenzo since his family was evicted from their home
two years ago.

“Uh…yeah.” The words stumbled out of my mouth.

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“I’ll tell ‘em I’m going to church.

That afternoon, Lorenzo made at least four trips to the snack
table, played half a game of cards, demolished the Jenga tower, and
made two requests for another orange. When it came time to begin
club, he sat with me in the front of the room. Lorenzo lay quietly
on his side, right next to my feet. He covered his insecurity with
a front of boredom, but eventually this 8-year-old began to sing
and even found a place at the table to make a red heart decorated
with sequins.

A week later the van pulled up to his house. The porch was full
of trash, 5-feet high and 6-feet deep of crushed beer cans, broken
furniture, and discarded toys. There on a rusted nail on his door,
though, was his big red heart decorated with sequins.

Lorenzo saw us through the window. I knew he had been waiting,
and he eagerly came to club that day. When club was over, I yelled
out that it was time to line up for the van.

“A.B.!” Lorenzo yelled across the room. “Come here…”

“What?”

He moved toward me and whispered, “Can I have just one apple to
take home? Please. Just this once?”

His black backpack hung off one shoulder. I grabbed it, and he
watched me as I went into the kitchen. I filled his backpack with
apples and oranges.

Twenty minutes later Lorenzo hauled that bag up to his house. He
turned to wave goodbye as he stood by the big red heart that looked
so out of place. I felt like crying, but oddly enough all that came
out of my mouth was a whisper, “Apples we got.”

We daily face a problem that’s bigger than our best ideas, more
complicated than our well-thought-out-but short-sighted
solutions-and deeper than what we could ever afford to give. Akin
to emptying the oceans with a tablespoon, we shovel out attention
and love to a population of kids that grows both in size and
neediness. We feed these children every time they walk through our
doors, but empty souls make empty stomachs look trivial. And these
are just the ones who make it through the doors of our
churches.

For every kid we pick up, there are at least a dozen others
staring at our van from finger-smudged windows, street corners, and
dirt lots. We’ve run out of van seats, room in the parish hall,
resources, and volunteers. It’s an impossible situation. An
unfillable need. We can’t keep up. Nor can we stop. We can’t seem
to walk away. And perhaps the only thing that sums up such a crazy
attempt to ease some of this insatiable injustice is as simple as
this…apples we got.

It’s far better to feed one man and deal with the inner conflict
of letting that feeding make you more aware of the hundreds your
lunch did not satisfy than to keep what you have to yourself.
Apples we got, and I know a boy who needs just that.

Amy Beth Larson is a missionary to children with The Third
Story in inner city Denver.

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