The name of this young person has been changed, but the events are real:
Brandon is 16 years old.
He has one of those sweet faces, kind with big brown eyes. It's difficult to say how old he is at first glance because his face is so youthful. He has a quiet manner, as if he is afraid to ask for permission to speak. For months he has been popping in and out of our life, usually when he had a need that he could not meet on his own. He never asked for money, he only asks for work.
The first time he stopped by, he was trying to earn cash to buy his big brother a graduation gift. He was proud of his big brother and it would mean a lot to congratulate him for graduating. The older woman who used to own the home we live in would pay him to weed her garden because she wasn’t able to do it. Brandon would use the money to by his clothes for school.
Brandon admits to me he reads at an 8th grade level. He will be a Junior this year.
The second time Brandon came to us, it was getting dark outside. We had just had dinner. He needed help figuring out how to get to an address. Someone was going to help him with school clothes for the fall. He just wanted directions. But it was almost dark, and the address he gave us was seven miles the other way. My husband gave him a ride. He trusts my husband.
He did not want us to take him home.
This morning was a normal day in our home. The itinerary was planned out, a routine like any other day. At 7:40 am there is a knock on the door. Brandon had come to ask if we might be able to give him a ride north. He had just missed my husband and was sorry to ask. He tells me quietly that he has been living with his grandfather, but that didn’t work out. He can’t live with his mom any more either and his dad isn’t part of the picture. He states each of these as simple facts.
Brandon is homeless.
I ask Brandon to come inside, I ask if he’s hungry. I was just about to make my little girl breakfast; would you like something to eat? He says no at first, he doesn’t want to be a burden and the ride is enough. Well, maybe… what were you going to make for her? Just eggs.
Ok, that sounds good.
My five-year-old, for unknown reasons, follows every single request I give her. She got herself dressed and put on her shoes . She wants to show Brandon her Lego collection. He indulges her like a big brother when she sets her music to blast Moana and offers him a dinosaur egg. She doesn’t know how to tell him that she likes him.
Both kids eat every bite. Somehow my dog and the kids manage to knock over the garbage when putting their dishes in the sink. Brandon looks horrified. I smile and tell him accidents happen. It's cleaned in moments and everything is fine.
It's not his fault.
I ask where we are going and if he needs anything else for lunch. Brandon say no. He tells me he has a family to stay with, that’s why he needs the ride. They’re going to take him in and let him live with them for the school year. They have already taken in two of his classmates and are adopting them. He wants to be clear, they are not adopting him. But, maybe.
We head out. I’ve promised to buy his supplies for the school year, and Brandon promised to come back to our house the next time he needs us. He also promises to call me when the family picks him up from the Boys and Girls Club. He doesn’t want to ask for more, he’s been taking care of himself for a long time now. He just needs a little bit of help now and then.
Thanks for the ride.
Brandon is 16 years old.
* If you want to help Brandon and kids like him, you can donate to The Morning Star Foundation which helps at-risk and under-privileged youth by partnering with many programs dedicated to serving the youth in our community.