I think they broke up. She took the baby and went to Iowa to live with her grandma. I'm not sure where he ended up.
The baby's birthday is tomorrow. He turns one.
Six months ago they moved into the garage behind our house and across the alley. We were told that it had been remodeled into an apartment, but had our doubts. There are no windows in the garage and the storm door often hung listlessly open.
I rarely saw them in cold weather, did not know how to help those we could not connect with. We picked up their trash that the crows scattered throughout the winter. We complained a little amongst ourselves, but knew that really, we were doing what Jesus would want us to do. We anguished over their condition, but it is a delicate thing to force yourselves on people who don't seem to want you in their lives. They wouldn't even look up so that I could wave across our alley. The wrong type of help might seem condescending, it might just make things worse and blight a relationship before it has a chance to begin. I didn't know how to do this. Was I to pretend we didn't know their home was a garage with a cement floor and a double wide roll up car door when my heart was broken for them? How to say hello? How to love? A pack of diapers at the door? A pot of soup? We prayed to be wise....
As the snow melted and warm weather came, they began to emerge.
Their fights were loud, verbally foul and obvious to the neighborhood. They were young, had no coping skills, did not know how to get along.
I finally flagged them down one spring day as they took a walk and asked their names and smiled over their little one in the stroller. We compared our babies' first teeth.
Their little pug, chained outside, championed his stash of tennis balls and chew toys. I took her a left-over sack of puppy chow from our dog "that was no longer." No smile. No thanks. No problem. I did not mind, I just didn't know what to do.
I gave her a ride home from the grocery store in the rain. I was surprised that she accepted my offer, but thankful. I learned that her baby was beginning to crawl and she knew that soon he would be walking. "I can't believe how fast he has grown." She directed me home: "I live in the....garage."
"I know." And that was all. I told her she could come to me if she ever needed anything. She guardedly smiled at me for the first time, ever.
Then suddenly, it was over. No more chances to be involved, it seemed. This was it? How could that be?
I saw the loaded pickup truck in the evening; went over and asked where they were going. She told me that her grandma was taking her things, but that she and the baby were catching a bus at 3:15 a.m. I told her I was sorry and wished her well. I didn't see the dad, anywhere.
It was late when I got the kids to bed. My husband was on night shift, and I am not as efficient as he is. It was a hot night and I was tired. Around 11:15 I remembered that she was leaving and I did not know what I should do. I'd prayed for months that God would open the doors of communication. There was never anything big, just bits and pieces - a name here, a tooth there, a rare smile at the end.
I opened my back door and peeked out. There was a light still on at the garage, and at the big house beyond as well. (I never did figure out the relationship. A relative, maybe?) Was there maybe still something we were supposed to do?
What about a gift for the baby? His birthday was coming up. Did I have anything? I scrambled around, looking. I came up with nothing.
I went to our sweltering upstairs, walked past the three little boys all sweaty and sprawled, and knocked on my big boys' door. They were still up, finishing a movie on the laptop.
I quickly told them what I was thinking. "Do you have any money?" They instantly jumped on board. "YES! We've been wanting to help, wanting to reach out, praying for something but didn't know what."
And we had discussed before, and prayed. "At least they are trying to do the right thing, the best they know how at this point in their lives. They are trying to be together, trying to raise their baby, even though it can't be easy to live as they do. They made a mistake, had a baby too young, too soon, got things out of order - but they chose life for their child!" They didn't romanticize, they saw the reality of poverty and welfare and heard the loud fights between the young couple, pried their garbage out of snow and ice to put it back in the can ....but still, gave them credit for trying to do the best for their child. The couple was young and poor, but they loved that baby so fiercely. He was always well cared for, clean and healthy. They were good parents.
The boys both fished in their back pockets, pulled out their wallets, and by scrounging and dipping into savings they came up with $40. It was money that was hard earned for teenaged boys, made by mowing yards and shelving books. There wasn't a split-second of hesitation. Forty dollars wouldn't go too far, but maybe some diapers and something to eat on the bus. She couldn't have much...
I ran back downstairs, wrote a quick note:
"This is for the baby's birthday. We wish you the best. God cares about you. We will be praying for you. Call us if you ever need to talk to someone," followed by a phone number and "Love."
I walked into the Southern Indiana air, made humid by our river geography. My feet pricked lightly and I tiptoed barefoot over the gravel. I knocked on the garage door. No one. I pushed the door open and peeked inside. No one. I circled around the block, looking for signs of life within the big house, feet wet from the grass. I hoped no one called the cops. I felt silly, but safe. One of my neighbors is a friend and also a cop.
I pushed the garage door open once more, placed the envelope "name up" by the diaper bag where she couldn't miss it, pulled the door shut, then came home and went to bed.
The boys asked me about it the next morning.
"We planted a seed, guys. Someone else will water. Just remember to pray for them."
That was last week. Today, I remembered a little boy turning one. I don't know his circumstances now, nor those of his mama or his daddy. I don't know if he slept on the bus or if he gave his mama a hard time. But I prayed for them all today.
God gave us a chance to see Him, to experience His heart, It was a holy moment, where He touched our hearts and we were able to hear Him and do the Word.*
It was humbling, but it was holy. Humbling because He allowed us to be a part and holy, because He was in it.
The next time someone reaches toward them with God's love, it will sound familiar. God's voice will sound more and more like home and life and safety. I am confident that God, who has started the good work, will continue to call to them and will complete what He has begun. (Philippians 1:6)
I see the shed they called home every time I open my back door. There's no way to forget. Our prayers will go with them.