The child, without affect, and the mother with earnest tone showed up on my churchstep. Cardboard (begging) sign tucked beside baby. Lots of words spoken quickly. Perhaps well-rehearsed. Perhaps not.
Rent due. No job. No money. How much is your rent? $500. More words. Many words. Diligent and speedy words. Let me see what I can find out. I’ll be right back.
I return with little. Empty hands really. Have you tried FISH? Helping Hands? More words. Rent. No job. No money. The air filled with earnestness and (only later I perceived) panic. Give me $300. No job. No money. Diapers.
FISH can help with diapers. Words. Fast. Eyes. Brown eyes yearning. For cash. Brown eyes yearning for relief. Quiet baby in stroller. No affect. No gurgles or babbles, smiles or cries.
I don’t have money for rent. You can come back for a meal on Tuesday. Too little (I know). More words. Begging words. Desperate words (though I didn’t realize it until later).
I’m sorry. We have no money for your rent. I’m sorry.
You’re not sorry. You didn’t give me any money.
Moments after she leaves, I run to catch her with a one time rent referral in hand. I stop at the door with still-little but something. Very little. A slight hope. But it’s not rent she really needs. Cash. Words. Fast words. No job. No money.
Two big men got out of van. She gets in. They are gone.
Nagging feelings. Cloud hanging. Piecing together, a member gave her food. Another gave her cash. She’d set up shop at edge of parking lot with that cardboard sign and sad, emotionless child.
But it’s the tone I missed. It was the bursting with desperation I failed to grasp.
The child, without affect, and the mother with earnest tone left behind horror in my mind. The desperation. The two big men in the van. The dull child.
She was in need. Desperate words. Earnestness and panicky words. Pleading brown eyes. She needed help but I fear it was not with rent.
And I sent her away.
The Blue Campaign, Department of Homeland Security
National Human Trafficking Hotline