When I was in the eight grade, I was nominated by a teacher to be in a peer program. As a pimply introverted teen with a headgear and a blaring label that screamed, Christian, I was honored.
The peer program matched me with a high risk elementary student, only three years younger.
Her name was Tiffany.
And she changed my life.
Or at least the way I viewed my life.
I grew up in a sheltered home. I had loving parents and a great church. My biggest concerns were said headgear and pimples.
I’ll never forget the day I met Tiffany. The school counselor introduced us. I knew she came from a tough environment, but I don’t think I even knew what that meant.
My first impression of Tiffany was, “this is what poor looks like.” Her clothes were dirty and worn. She wore a headband in her tangled hair. She looked sad. And old.
She also was very big for her age, and appeared to be just a size under me.
Our first meeting was awkward.
The second time, we talked. I will never forget what she told me. “My mom ran off last year. She left me with her x-boyfriend. It’s just me and him and he’s mean to me.”
I still remember the feeling I felt in that tiny room. I wanted to help Tiffany. I had never met a desperate child before. It was the first time my heart broke for someone other than myself.
Through tears, I told my mom and sister Tiffany’s story. They agreed that we had to do something. My sister and I filled 3 huge bags with clothes and shoes. I remember going through my costume jewelry and picking out some of my favorite things for her.
I had never given anyone something of mine before. And it felt good.
Handing my used things to a flabbergasted, grateful girl was a defining moment for me. We both cried and hugged. I saw her hope in her eyes.
I couldn’t wait to see her in new clothes.
But I never did. The next time we were supposed to meet, she was gone.
The counselor explained that her father withdrew her from school. No contact information. No forwarding address. I tried to explain what she told me. The counselor patted me on the shoulder and gave me the name of a new student to meet with.
I never heard another word about her, but I never forgot Tiffany.
My life went on much the same, but I was different. I also struggled to make sense why I couldn’t have helped Tiffany more. Every time I thought of her, I said a quick prayer.
Five years later, I was a freshman in college 200 miles from home. I had just landed a coveted job as a tutor for The Texas Baptist Home for Children. It paid $12.00 an hour, a fortune even now for a college student.
I got into the swing of tutoring these troubled kids after my classes. The State of Texas had removed them from their homes for various reasons. I mainly tutored elementary kids.
I came in one day, feeling down. I was dealing with the normal anxieties of young adult life. And I felt alone, away from home for the first time and questioning my purpose.
A new student had been assigned to me. Her name was Tiffany.
It took a few minutes of us staring across the table at each other. And then we jumped up and hugged.
A hundred questions tumbled out of my mouth. She filled in the years since we’d last seen each other. The State had removed her two years before. She was safe. Happy. And she still carried a piece of the jewelry I had given her. There was hope in her eyes.
Our reunion was brief because Tiffany was permanently placed into a home. A real home.
I have drawn from this experience my entire adult life. He knew I would meet Tiffany again one day. He has woven the tapestry of our lives. It looks messy and tangled at times, but when you turn it over, it forms a beautiful story.
I cannot tell you why I’m posting this today. Except that someone out there needs to know that He knows where you are and what you need.
Originally published on 4tunate