Is it ever too late?

As soon as the words came out of her mouth this morning she looked horrified and I cringed, anger building quickly:

“It’s too late for her. She’s never going to amount to anything.”

I excused myself to get some coffee and attempt to gather myself.

She was referring to a just turned five year old.

A baby, really, who has been through more in her brief years than most adults would ever have wanted to live through.

She’s been abused, sexually, physically and emotionally. She’s been neglected and abandoned. She heard her mother tell her she has ruined her (the mother’s) life and that she (the mother) wishes she had never been born. She has sat alone in a house more nights than not with no electricity, no running water, and no food. Alone except for a stray dog that helps keep her warm.

She flinches if you approach her even if it’s done with kindness. She’s confused when praised. She’s angry when she has to leave.

She’s been in home after home after home. And school after school after school.

She knows how to steal because that’s the only way she can be sure she’s going to eat. And, she still steals even though we give her an extra lunch (or two) to take home with her every day.

She wants to be here and she doesn’t want to be here.

She wants to hope but she’s afraid to hope.

I wanted to scream when I heard those words. Instead I reminded her quietly that five is awfully young to make that type of decision and that even though we may never see change as a result of what we do, we also only see a short glimpse of the little lives we encounter. In ten years, she may remember the kindness extended to her here, the extra steps taken to show care, not just say it, the second, third and fourth chances given…and then it may make a difference in her life. We are entrusted with little lives for a short period of time, but it is an important time in a young life.

I could have been that five year old.

There was an adult in my life who stood by me when I was five, who sat with me at school and played rhyming games with me, who showed me unbelievable kindness.

I remember her name to this day, and still keep in touch with her.

It’s never too late to care, is it?

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