God's Got His Back. The Kid Will be Okay

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

Kids have a way of breaking your heart at times and serving you a great big dollop of humility in the bargain. I found myself falling big time for this little kid at the Village right from the first day I met him.

"Matt" is hard not to like. He's smart, affectionate, outgoing, enthusiastic ... all those qualities that make any kid likable. But he also carries within him the demons of early childhood abuse and neglect that haunt him and can at times make him a threat to himself and to others.

In my naivety (or was it arrogance) I always figured if we could just lavish on him the love and caring that he missed growing up, heck we could turn his life around in no time.

I made it my personal goal to bring about change in Matt. I gave him lots of one-on-one time, showed up for him at school plays and basketball games, took him out for ice cream, watched Sponge Bob Square Pants with him, gave him hundreds of hugs and pats on the back to encourage him along the way. I assured him too that the neglect and abuse he had suffered was not his fault, that he is a good kid, a child created in the image and likeness of God.

But guess what? On the surface at least, he is still a very troubled, at times self-destructive little boy, seemingly intent on frustrating all the care we have given him.

I was starting to feel totally frustrated at how little we have been able to help this kid.

You'd think that an old guy like me would have known better. Down deep, I know, we all know that none of us can change people. People have to change themselves. Was I really imagining that a few hugs and several visits to Baskin Robbins could "save" this little kid? In my head, I knew better but I wasn't paying attention.

It took a friend of mine who has gone through the Alcoholics Anonymous treatment program to remind me of some basics. Whether you are dealing with your own demons or trying to help other human beings, there comes a time when you must admit that you are powerless. There comes a time when you have to make a decision to turn our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.

I have not given up on little Matt. He is young yet and can turn his life around but I know now that I can't do that for him. My role is much less grandiose. I'll still hug him and tell him I love him. (He told me once in exasperation, "Grandpa Hank you told me that a thousand times already") I am not a super grandpa. It feels liberating to admit that. And somehow, I am more confident than ever that this kid will succeed. Before I thought that if I hugged him enough, I could save him. Duh! All the time his little kid has been resting in the in the bosom of his Father. God's got his back. Matt's gonna be fine.