I heard daily reports about *Carlos before I ever laid eyes on him. He was new to my kids’ middle school and was making quite an impression. Every day that fall, my kids tumbled off the bus with a new report of his atrocities. That boy was getting to know the principal really well.
One day, I walked into the school office early in the morning to find a dark haired young man already occupying the seat of doom. He turned to face at me as I entered the room.
I have a terrible soft spot for the kid on the fringe…
“Are you Carlos?” I asked him.
He smiled slightly and nodded his head. His eyes were mischievous and defiant but there was something else in them…a softness.
I knew he was a big pain in the rear but my heart ached for him.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked.
Warily, he shook his head no.
“I am Claudine and Jeremiah’s mom,” I said
His eyes said, “Oh. She knows about me.”
I grinned at him and said, “You are sorta wearing that seat out aren’t you?”
His eyes twinkled with mischief and he slowly nodded his head.
“Hmm…Why don’t you give it a rest for awhile? See if you can stay out of here? Give someone else a turn?”
Another slow nod of the head.
I grinned at him again and then pointed two fingers at my eyes and then back at him as I walked away.
“I’m gonna be watching you,” I teased.
But Carlos kept warming his seat in the office and eventually, his reign of terror landed at the feet of my daughter. She was his newest target. He was relentless until the day I ran into him again, this time at a soccer game. He knew he was busted the minute he saw me.
He looked positively terrified when I motioned for him to join me on the bleachers. I turned to look into those deep brown eyes again and saw a boy who didn’t really need to be told one more time what a mess he was making. I saw a boy who needed a lifeline of grace.
“Carlos, Claudine has told me the things you have been saying to her. Why are you being mean to her?”
He ducked his head in shame and shrugged his shoulders.
“Carlos, do you know what I see when I look in your eyes?”
He raised his gaze to meet mine and shook his head in silence but his face said it all, “Tell me there is something good there. Please…tell me I’m not all bad.”
“I see a sweetness, Carlos,” I said softly. “I see a good boy in there. I believe you can do better than this. Do your schoolwork. Stay out of trouble. I forgive you for being mean to Claudine. Don’t do it anymore.”
This time, his silent nod was lit with a beautiful smile
He became friends with my daughter from that day on. He bragged to people at school that “He and Claudine were practically brother and sister.” He made better choices for a long time too.
Recently, he fell off the wagon hard. Claudine caught him in the middle of his mischief.
“Don’t tell Mama Gragg,” he begged her.
He isn’t afraid of me. He doesn’t want to face my hurt and disappointment.
Grace is what keeps the heart, friends. Always, always grace. (Col. 2:16-23)
*name has been changed