Dusk swallows the shadows of sun filtered day, wrapping itself tightly around evening. Naked limbs and branches of leafless trees silhouetted black against the gray evening sky.

The street lamps line Chestnut Street; beautiful, yellow light illumination. The golden hue seeps into my soul, casting light on the thoughts I mull. My Kids’ Club girls. Their darkness. How to reach them? Jesus. A tangled web and no clear answers.

Tuesday nights are Kids Club nights. My class is full of young city girls aged eleven through fifteen. Miss Susie and I get to teach them and it’s no small task. These girls are so old; so wise to the ways of the world. Yet, they are so young; everything mature broken down to hold their attention and resonate with their level of maturity. I always feel lost. How to keep order and yet care for their sensitive hearts?

I was almost finished teaching the lesson. I had just asked the girls, “How can we care more about others than we do ourselves?” As the words left my mouth, I saw Kayla sitting there clutching a notebook to her chest. She was looking down and her mouth was trembling. Her best friend Raina put her arms  around her, hugging her tight.

“Miss Renee, can we step out of the classroom? Kayla needs too.” Raina said in her strident, no-nonsense voice.

“Kayla, are you okay?” I stood in front of her, heart beating fast. “Why don’t we step out of the classroom. Miss Susie, will you take over the lesson?”

I walked out of class and stepped outside with these tall, lean young women, just barely teenagers. “What’s wrong, Kay?” I touched her arm. “You can talk to me.” My heart heavy, thick with the silence, as Kayla’s shoulders shook and the water fell down her face.

“Kayla, Miss Renee’s a God-person, you can talk to her,” Raina, the girl who swore at me when I had to temporarily suspend her a couple of weeks ago, urged her friend. My heart warmed.

We sat under a tree and Kayla talked. She said that today was the anniversary of witnessing her uncle kill himself. Tears streamed out of her eyes lined in thick, dark make-up. Raina started crying and a few tears slid down my own cheeks. “Can I hug you, Kayla?” She nodded numbly and I pulled a big girl-almost-turned-woman into my lap and squeezed her tight, wishing I could squeeze her pain away.

“Let’s pray, Kayla,” I held her hand and prayed. What do you pray for an aching, empty heart tortured with traumatic memories? “Jesus, be real for Kayla. Quiet her heart and her mind. You know her pain, God. You watched someone die too – your own Son. You identify with Kayla and you care so much more than I even can.” As I prayed, she quieted and the tears slowed. We stood up after a few minutes and I hugged Kayla and Raina. I love you,” I whispered to each girl, wishing that I love you sufficed.

When we got back to our classroom, Brittany was so mad at Miss Susie for taking a point she was almost shouting and Marie was stewing angrily in the corner. Brittany pulled out her cell phone and called her Dad, before we could get to the bottom of the matter and regain order in the classroom. Marie was so mad her voice was getting louder and she said she was ready to cuss everybody in the classroom out.

“STOP. We’re going to pray.” Before any of the girls had a chance to say anything more, I bowed my head and started praying for each girl in the room – that they would sense God’s presence and know that they are deeply loved by their Father in heaven.

Brittany’s dad came and Miss Susie and Brittany talked with him, while I handed snacks out and the girls finished making their cards for the nursing home residents.  Glue and paper and stickers scattered everywhere and the minute I finished passing out plates and utensils, somebody said they didn’t get a plate and someone else couldn’t find their napkin. The classroom was a mess and the night had completely unraveled.

And I thought of my prayer time with Kayla and Raina, and like golden orbs of light lining Chestnut Street at dusk, my heart is enlightened. This is why I am here. A simple answer for the many moments of frustration the last month, but an answer that suffices. My Kids’ Club class a chaotic harmony of laughter and tears, a cacophony of cuss words and questions, hearts to illumine with the Light of the World.

My own heart illumined every Tuesday night, as I fall more and more in love with each soul…my girls.


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