As I knelt down beside her and looked into her little brown eyes I saw no evidence of fear, only joy. In anticipation of what I was about to say I felt a lump well up in my throat, a lump I had to swallow for if I didn’t tears would come running down my face and I couldn’t let her see me cry. My heart had been broken for days. I didn’t want this day to come, yet it had.
I had to say goodbye.
Ebony was her name. She was an 8 year old little girl in my son’s 3rd grade class. She had been in 8 different homes since her birth and now was being moved to a facility that dealt with children with severe emotional issues. I could only imagine the heartache she felt being abandoned and rejected at least 8 times that I knew of. What else had she endured in her short life? No wonder she would have fits of anger. Would these bursts of anger be her way of rejecting these families before they rejected her or was there more going on?
I would never know.
From the first day I met Ebony I felt a connection with her. It was as if I fell in love with her at first sight. When I would go and help in the class she would always respond positively to me. Often I would help her as well as other children. God had used me as a vessel to love on her. He allowed me to feel her pain so that I could have compassion and not judgment. You know the kind of judgment I am talking about, we all do it. We say things like “Oh that child!” with an air of distain or intolerance. But with Ebony it wasn’t like that. It was “Oh that child” with compassion and mercy.
How does a little girl face so much rejection?
I shed many tears up to this day because I didn’t want to let her go. I felt life was so unfair to her. I wanted to do more but I couldn’t and that hurt even more. She wasn’t mine to have or to keep nor was I in a place where I could have kept her. Trust me I wanted to but my husband wasn’t even working at the time and we could not take on something of this gravity. Even now in writing this I am an emotional wreck and have tears streaming down my face because she made such an impact on my life. My fear that morning was, will I be able to say goodbye without breaking down? Would Ebony feel the same way I did? I wanted the moment I said good bye to be one where I could let her know she was loved, not one that was about my breaking heart.
After all, my broken heart could not compare to hers.
As I knelt down in front of this precious little girl I took out a stuffed teddy bear I bough for her. I told her that Jesus told me to get the bear for her and that He would be with her wherever she went. She took the bear and gave it a hug and then she did something that I will never forget. She pulled out a picture she had drawn for me. It was a picture of a broken heart with a sword going through it. It took all my strength to not break down in front of her. What was even more amazing was that there was a smile on her face! How could this little 8 year old with all the brokenness in her life be brave enough to risk sharing her heart with me and do so with joy?! It is a brave I will never understand.
Fear didn’t win that day, Love did!!
As she bent down to give me a hug it was as if time stood still. I knew in that moment I had touched her as she touched me. All I could do was hold her as long as I could; Ebony would be gone by the end of the day. As I let her go and left the class tears streamed down my face. All I could do now was hope that someday life would be better for her. Ebony taught me more in that moment about being brave than I think I have learned in my life. She made a choice to be brave and risk sharing her heart with me which I in turn was able to pour whatever ounce of love I could back to her. As adults we hide our fears and we take our brokenness and mask it under a myriad of things. We take our hearts and all of our brokenness and we build walls around it to protect it thinking the wall we built will solve all of our problems. It never does.
I don’t know what ever happened to Ebony. It’s been almost 9 years but I think of her often. I’ve kept her picture in my nightstand so that I will remember her and remember to pray for her. Her picture reminds me to be brave and gives me the strength and courage to face any obstacle that may arise. It reminds me that if she can do it so can I.
Today I have shared about Ebony but I know there are many Ebony’s out there. You may not have been rejected and abandoned in the same way she was but you were still rejected and abandoned. You need to know that you are loved and you matter to others. You matter to me. You’re matter because God loves you and created you in His image. Don’t let fear win in your life, let the walls that you have built come down. Risk sharing your heart with someone, you just might be surprised with the compassion they have for you. Don’t let fear rule, let love rule as Ebony did. Let Ebony be your inspiration of brave as she has been mine.
Drawing: Karen Asbra