The Boy who was and wasn't there.

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It’s my custom each morning to walk Bella, my dog, on a path through a small remnant forest conveniently located in the middle of our suburb. On Monday morning I was surprised by a bundle on one of the park benches that proved to be, as suspected, a sleeping body cocooned inside of a sleeping bag. The pristine state of the sleeping bag led me to suspect that its occupant would be young person from a middle class home. I decided to leave it uninspected for the moment and continue my walk down to the beachside caravan park but to return that way just to be sure that if there were a body inside the bag, it was, in fact, alive and breathing.

Upon second inspection, I wasn’t too sure there was somebody inside the bag. I gently folded back the hood and inquired if there was someone asleep inside. There was a stirring and a hooded head lifted itself offering a sheepish smile, his heavy-lidded grey eyes adjusting themselves to the light. He couldn’t have been more than 15.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied with typical teen boy brevity. There was a nice energy about him though and my heart immediately softened.

“Did you have a hard night?”

“Yeah,” sheepish smile. Nothing too bad here, I hoped, maybe a fight with his folks. He looked all right physically.

“Do you need somewhere to stay?”

“No, I’m okay.”

I would take him at his word. I rubbed his head without even thinking about what I was doing and he didn’t mind. He smiled and I said I hoped he’d be okay and went on my way.

In some inexplicable way the encounter felt connected to the dying dream. It made me review my connection to children in this lifetime, not just my two sons but also the numerous kids I’ve taught and cared for and loved. There was a reinforcement of a number of personal insights related to that review. For instance, it occurs to me that my childhood inner life has remained so strikingly present and vivid into my adult years for the purpose of helping me better empathise with the children in my care. It also reinforced for me that the career I chose helped me grow in love for my fellow human beings in a way that may not have unfolded otherwise. It seemed to be one of a few things that occurred in the week after than dream that was somehow related to the desire not to allow myself to become hardened by the stresses of my job.

I was dismayed when I saw the bundle on the bench on Tuesday. I couldn’t help but wonder if the boy avoided his bedroom because it wasn’t a safe place for him. This time when I woke him, he didn’t seem so happy.

“Hello, friend. Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“You’ve been home?”


“You’ve eaten, had a shower?”


“I come by here everyday around this time. If you need help, just ask.”

The next two days were wildly windy and he wasn’t there in the morning. I must admit that I worried during the night that he might be out there. I hope he’s okay.

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