It was in the early hours when he heard her. He could not see her but could feel the distress in her strangled sobs. The streets were dark and silent normally at this hour, with only a few strays walking the streets looking for happiness in a dark alley of despair.
His footsteps echoed as he walked, searching for the woman whose cries tore at his heart. Corner after corner, he turned, circling the block to no avail. Looking to the heavens, he prayed, ‘God, I need help. Help me find her.’ He stood and listened, nothing. He closed his eyes once more and said, ‘God, if it be your will, please, help me find her.’
Off in the distance, he saw a light. ‘Go to the light,’ a voice whispered. Startled, he turned, seeing no one. Exhaling, he began to walk toward the light. Odd to see a light in this area, he thought. This is where people went to disappear, and it was easy to do in this dark and filthy quarter. These streets were shunned, lost long ago to drugs and thieves. Most people rushed past them, anxious to get away. The people here were treated like pariahs.
As he neared the light, he saw her lying on the cold, wet cement. She appeared to be huddled and lying over something or someone. He rushed towards her and inquired if she was all right. Stupid question, really, for she most certainly was not. He looked up and saw that the street light was burnt out. There should be no light here, but there had been.
‘Ma’am, are you hurt? Can I help you? Then he saw her and the shock of it made him step back. Her face was bloodied, streaked only with tears of sorrow and pain. She looked older than her years. Her eyes sought his, and she looked at him pleading.
‘Please, help him. He is dying, and no one will help. He is my son, and no one will help me.’
Kneeling, I looked at the woman again and placed my hand on her shoulder. She had come searching for her son, and now she held a stranger in her arms who was dying. ‘He is not your son. Here, let me help him.’
I leaned down and cleaned the hair from his face. He had been badly beaten and bloodied, but he was alive. I could have been looking in a mirror. It shook me to be reminded of my life not too long ago. This had been my fate one cold winter’s night.
I lifted him as carefully as I could and turned to the woman, saying, ‘Come, we will get him help.’
He was not her son, but he was someones. I knew her son. He had walked these streets nightly looking for a joy he could not find. He was too ashamed to return home, for he had done and said horrible things. Then one day, he found God, or rather God found him, and he vowed to help others who were as lost as he had been.
They reached the clinic and he kicked at the door. A light went on in the upper level. They weren’t going to be happy he woke them, but he knew they would answer. This door was never closed to anyone, and all were welcome here who needed help.
‘This better be, oh, my, well don’t just stand there bring him in.’ We rushed inside, all the while the woman was crying and begging for us to help her son. Again, I said to her, ‘This is not your son.’
She looked confused. ‘I have been searching these streets every night for five years looking for him. Trying to save him, and now it may be too late.’ The tears would not stop flowing. She dropped her head into her hands.
I lifted her chin gently with my hand, ‘you have found him, and he has been saved.’ She stared at me confused and then slowly reached to touch my face, recognition dawning on those tired eyes. ‘Charlie, is that you? Is it really you?’
‘Yes, mom. It is me. I am sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused you. I was too ashamed to come home. Can you forgive me?’ Long had I waited to say those words. Now I waited, holding my breath for her reply.
In response, she hugged me tighter than I could ever remember being hugged before. ‘I love you. You were forgiven long ago, and all I’ve ever wanted was to find you and bring you home.’
‘I am home, mom. These streets are my home. I walk them now searching for people who need my help and do my best to help them as I was helped.’ We sat while the doctor worked on his patient, and I told her how the man in this clinic had found me and how he had helped me. She listened quietly, only looking at me through new tears.
‘I lay in the streets, dying, asking God to take me, and I heard this voice saying, ‘There is more for you to do. Rise, my son.’ When I looked up, the doctor was standing over me, trying to get me to sit up. I stayed with him for a few days until I was strong enough, and during that time, we talked and prayed together. When I told him that it was his words telling me to stand that kept me going, he said he hadn’t said anything at all and had just arrived as I was struggling to get up.
‘Please don’t cry, mom. I’m ok. It’s going to be ok.’ She wrapped me once more in her arms, smiling and said, How can I not cry with joy? My boy was lost, and now he has been found. God is good.’
The doctor came in and told us the young man would be fine. He’d need some time to heal, and we’d need to find him a place to stay. ‘He’ll stay with me until he is well enough, and you will visit us and tell me more of your journey.’ There was no hesitation in her words. The doctor returned to his patient, leaving us to get reacquainted.
‘Now tell me more of what happened to you and how you were saved.’
And so it came to be that I sat in a clinic with my mother in the early hours telling her how I had found God, or rather how He had found me.
If you liked this faith story you can find others on the Faith Stories link of Leslie’s website.