I walked over, passing by a few tables while saying hello to all the ones that lined my path to this dear 10 year old girl. I looked down and her arms… they had slices across them the whole way up the inside of her arm. At least 10 or more lines of dried blood across her right arm.

“Honey” I said “Why? Why do you hurt yourself like this?”

“When my mom gets mad at me, she tells me to. And when I get anxious and scared, I just do. They give me medicine – I forget which one it is – but it doesn’t help. And I go to therapy. But Dad says I don’t have a problem. That therapy is stupid for me.”

“Do you feel more like yourself when you take your medicine, or does it make you feel different?”

“I don’t even know what it feels like to be myself.” She said.

“What kinds of things are you thinking about when you slice your arm?” I asked.

Her response has echoed through my heart ever since that day. “That I… I don’t know who I am. That’s what I think about.”

There I am sitting at a lunch table in front of all her friends, in the middle of a public school…

“Amazing. You are amazing. And you are so strong. You are a good daughter and friend and student. Let’s start there. Every time you question who you are, while you are figuring that out, you remind yourself that Mrs Pence told you that you are amazing, and you are worth good things. You do good to your body. Not bad and painful things. Because you are amazing. You will figure out the rest in time, and…” I looked deep into her soul with the strong and full belief and conviction of a mother “You are gonna be ok.”

I paused and just smiled at her, my whole heart hugging her broken pieces.

After a bit of chatter among all at the table I asked her “Have you ever worked out or ran or found a way to release your anxious energy in a way that doesn’t hurt you?”

“No. I’ve never done that. You think that might help me?”

“I think it could be helpful to at least give it a try.”

Isn’t that how Jesus is with us? He meets us right where we are with no agenda other than to love us right there. And He gently begins to speak life into our hearts.

And with that, and a soft, believing smile, I moved on to the next table, and the next, and the next after that. Each table filled with hearts that bask in the simple light of being seen. In a sea of noisey chatter and hundreds of children all around, they lock eyes, even if just for a second or two, with the eyes of one who sees them.

It seems so simple, and it is certainly not overly spiritual. But the simple act of looking into their eyes and smiling and asking how they are – not trying to solve all their problems, not trying to save them from it all – but just loving them enough to see and hear them… this can be the breath of air and the simple presence of mercy that gives them a new start at something different. At something from the most pure and holy heart of God for them.

Every single one of us can be this every day in the places we are at. We can be the eyes and the voice of mercy that is new every morning for the one in front of us. How deep the Father’s love and care and presence is for His children… all of them.

How my heart cannot stop covering this beautiful generation of children with the mercy and the presence of God. He will meet each one where they are at. I know He will. He has filled them with hope and purpose and life. And He is breathing gently into their pain with His Spirit. They will be shining with His glory! For He has them. And His victory is theirs! We must believe this about Him – that He is our victorious King and Father – for them to discover the strength of this truth in our hearts for them. Father, we believe.