It is a typical afternoon outside my house. Which means that there are a ton of kids and a few parents all hanging out on the hill in front of my door and running madly all over the place. Mostly it is is the kids running madly.
I am sitting on the hill talking to a couple of other moms and holding the Baby in my lap. She sits down right beside me, this girl I know. She's been playing with my children for 2 years now. She's 6 years old. She smiles up at me, this little girl, and I smile back at her and then turn to answer a question and keep the Baby from doing a face plant as she struggles out of my grasp while I put her shoe back on. And suddenly quick as she can, while both my arms are full and I am not looking she reaches out and wraps her arms around my waist and squeezes tight. It is the briefest of hugs, a sniper hug. And then she is up and running off to play again without giving me a chance to respond as I sit there, my heart breaking as I think about what just happened.
To say that this girl's family is going through difficult times is like calling giant boulders crashing down all around a little bit of an inconvenience. She's been through a family member not dealing with addiction, and unemployment, and siblings in foster care, and hopelessness in both parents.
I've seen a few attempts by her to show her parents affection met with misinterpretation and often irritation. Her mom is doing her best, and she's starting from way behind where some of us begin emotionally. She's in counseling.
So it broke my heart when she hugged me like that, lightening fast and then gone before I could respond. Before I could reject her overture. It broke my heart that she had to work up the courage to give me a hug in the first place. The whole situation is just unbearably sad.
And so I, at the first opportunity, hugged her back, and have hugged her several times since then. Perhaps it will be enough? What else can I do besides fill up the time she is with me with as much love as possible against the years ahead? I pray every day that her situation will improve, and that in the years to come she will remember that at least one person saw her, really saw her, and cared, and that that little memory will change things for the better somehow.
I'm not saying that her parents don't love her, because I don't think it's true. Just that they are very, very, distracted right now by the hard things of life.