A Boy Named Joe…..

I met a boy who broke my heart.  He also touched me deeply.  His unbridled sense of enthusiasm and welcoming demeanor was at odds with the bad stuff he has encountered in his young life.

Joe (not his real name) befriended me at the Thompson Child & Family Focus Holiday Chapel Service.  As I took my seat in the row behind him, he turned around and with a firm handshake, welcomed me to worship.  We exchanged a few words and smiles, before he invited me to move up and sit beside him.

I readily complied and enjoyed the service even more as he “guided and instructed” me on   how to follow along, the difference between the Bible and Hymnal, and who all the players were.

Mr. JD, Thompson’s spiritual director who was leading the service, is the “guy who owns this place, I think,” said Joe.  Of course, I knew differently but there was really no reason to set the record straight.  I mean, what difference could it make to Joe if I told him that hundreds of generous donors and volunteers have a hand in creating a safe haven like Thompson?

For Joe, understanding the complexities of a nonprofit operation would pale in comparison to the essence of this annual Christmas service and the abiding care he receives from JD and the Thompson “family.”

This 11-year-old boy continued as my teacher, explaining that the smoke from the Altar candles was God’s spirit with us in this very room. And, that God is always with us, no matter what.

His role as interpreter and experienced participant was not directed toward me alone. He asked me to change seats a couple of times when he determined that a very little girl behind us was having trouble seeing the goings-on at the front of the Chapel.

We shared some food together after worship, and he asked me if I would come back again to visit him.  I don’t know exactly why Joe is living at Thompson’s psychiatric residential treatment center because that is confidential. But, I know that because he is here, it means someone who was supposed to love him instead chose to hurt or neglect him.

And here at Thompson, Joe will get the best professional treatment and support available – leading him from trauma to stability and success.

That one hour with Joe was the best gift I’ll receive this Christmas season.  While he navigated me through the steps of the service, he shared the confidence and strength he is just beginning to embrace. In doing so, he wrapped up joy and hope and handed them to me.  This child, who has known the worst of humanity, is finding hisway.

I’m glad he broke my heart.  I know the pain will lead me to do more to help children like Joe redeem their lives.

Full disclosure:   Kathy Rowan has worked as a public relations consultant, volunteered and contributed to Thompson for the past six years.


Creative Commons License photo credit: tozofoto(Merry Christmas)


  1. So. Sweet. This touching post brought tears to my eyes, thank GOD for the wonderful people who volunteer and give their hearts to places like this.
    Amanda @ High Impact Mom recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Student of the Month 2011

  2. This is beautifully written and very touching. Tears are hitting my keyboard.

  3. What a truly beautiful post. Thanks for introducing us to Joe. May your telling of his story lead us all to help the children on his path.

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