At-Risk ChildI pulled up to the front of *Bridget’s house. She was sitting outside on the stoop waiting for me to arrive. She turned and yelled through the door to her older sister, announcing that she was leaving. She was running to the car before I could even open my door. We were off to the circus.

It wasn’t just any circus, it was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and she was so excited! We arrived at the same time as the Youth Mentoring van did. Kids and mentors began to pile out. It was rather comical. We walked to the front of the Coliseum and there was a long line of people waiting to get in early to see the animals and the circus performers. We were able to go right to the front and inside where our group leader was waiting with our tickets. Bridget kept asking, “Are we going to see the clowns yet?” “Not yet, Bridget, the animals come first, then we go to see the clowns.” An obvious look of frustration and impatience came over her face each time followed by acceptance. We walked by the elephants, the white tigers, the miniature horses, and zebras. She stopped and looked at each one and quickly looked to see what was coming next. I talked her into having her picture taken in front of each animal. She would flash the same smile each time and then show me how indignant she was to have to waste time doing it.

We were then off to the circus floor to see the acts warming up. It was very exciting! There she stood, hanging onto the rope waiting and watching as each acrobat danced by. Again, she repeated… “I wish I was a clown!” We stopped and got popcorn and drinks on the way to our seats. There were about 60 or 70 Youth Mentoring people sitting together in the same area. Bridget enjoyed the rest of the acts as much as the ones she saw on the floor of the arena. Finally, the clowns came out. She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was especially taken with the one with the high blond hair. She said again, “I wish I was a clown. I asked her; “WHY?” “Why do you want to be a clown, Bridget?” She said, “Because then I could smile all the time…I could be happy all the time!” I said, “Aww…that sounds nice. But Bridget, clowns aren’t happy and smiling all the time. That’s the makeup they wear and an act they put on.” “I know,” She said, “but if they are sad, no one has to know. And they have lots of friends to cheer them up until they get happy again.” I told her I was her friend and we are looking for a friend who will be there for her when she is sad and will do things with her whether she is happy or sad. She just looked up at me and said, “Oh yeah? When?” “I am not sure, but soon”. I told her, “soon…”

This is just one little girl waiting for a mentor. One hundred other boys and girls are waiting. What are their hopes and dreams? To be happy? To feel like they are not alone? To have a friend? God is faithful in using the gifts of time and money we bring to this ministry to answer questions like these every day. A little time each week… A little money each month…It is life-changing! †

*Names changed