Of Roaches, Lice, & Calvary Love

Yesterday evening, I knocked on the apartment of one our Kids Klub families. When the mom opened the door, I noticed that what I could see of the living room was completely devoid of furniture. I asked if they were moving. “No,” she said, “our furniture is gone until we get it back.” Immediately my thoughts wondered to, Oh, how sad. I bet they had to pawn their furniture.

However, that wasn’t the case at all, as she clarified: “We had a problem with roaches–and we need to paint the walls. We’ve lived here for 9 years, and they need to be painted.”

Double ugh.

It reminded me of The Lice Story.

Several years ago, I had a little friend who lived in the Projects. I’ll call her K. She was around 8 or 9 years old and regularly attended Kids Klub and church. She was being raised by a single mom; her dad was in prison. She and I did a few special outings together — the zoo, trips to McDonald’s and the park, to name a few. Often, I would visit K on Saturday afternoons, and since her mom never invited me into the apartment, we would sit on the steps and talk.

One particular Sunday at church, an adult sitting in the pew behind K and me noticed activity in K’s hair. That adult promptly informed me, and unfortunately, it only took a quick glance to confirm the awful diagnosis.

One of my main concerns was not to embarrass K, but I knew the problem had to be discussed and addressed. When I dropped her off after church, I talked to her mother. She was aware of her head condition and “working on it.” Thinking that money might be an issue, I came back later and left some lice shampoo.

Fast forward a few days. I stopped by to pick up K for a church activity, but before we left, I did a quick head check. Those creatures were still there!

Double ugh.

K stayed home from the activity, and the next day, I made a call to the school nurse, who I knew would find a way to take care of the problem if K’s mother wouldn’t or couldn’t. It bothered me not just a little that the nurse was very familiar with K and not at all surprised by the nature of my call. Was lice a perpetual visitor to K? Were there other neglect-related health concerns? Of course, with confidentiality issues, I would not have been privy to the information had I asked those questions that floated through my brain.

K’s head eventually received a clean bill of health, although I will confess that I remained on subtle head patrol for some time after that incident — for her as well as for myself!

There’s a challenging little book by Amy Carmichael called If published in 1953. It’s also a repetitive little book. Each sentence begins with “If” and ends with “then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Here’s an excerpt:

If I ask to be delivered from trial rather than for deliverance out of it, to the praise of His glory; if I forget that the way of the Cross leads to the Cross and not to a bank of flowers; if I regulate my life on these lines, or even unconsciously my thinking, so that I am surprised when the way is rough and think it strange, though the word is, “Think it not strange,” “Count it all joy,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Here’s another Amy’s version, circa 2010:

If I ask to be delivered from rubbing shoulders with people who have head lice or roaches in their apartments; if I expect only sweet-smelling, well-behaved boys and girls to attend Kids Klub; if I insulate myself so that nothing dirty or poor or hurting ever commands my attention and interrupts my schedule; if I regulate my life on these lines, or even unconsciously in my thinking, so that I am surprised when there are encounters with head lice or roaches, or persons smelly, dirty, poor, uneducated, or ill-behaved–then I know nothing of Calvary love.

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