We had a busy day, unloading a third truck of furnishing from our two previous households into the new home where we are now residing with our youngest daughter and her family. We decided to eat out for supper; and on the way back to the house, we thought we would drive through our new neighborhood. One of our concerns in the move has been to find some neighborhood children with whom our two grandchildren might connect.
As we drove by a home around the corner from our house, we saw a strange phenomenon—a young boy, who appeared to be about our grandson’s age, was scrunched up in an animal cage right between the road and the sidewalk. Although this looked strange and we thought we heard a soft cry coming from the boy, we thought, “Here’s a neighbor who appears to be about our grandson’s age, and he probably is just playing around. Maybe he will be our grandson’s first neighborhood friend.” We drove home, parked the car, and set out to walk to the caged boy and perhaps meet our grandson’s first neighbor about his age.
When we got to the caged boy, we discovered that he was indeed caged. Our grandson, Clay, undid the latch and set the boy free. Climbing out of the cage awkwardly, the boy under questioning told his story. He actually lived across the street from where he was caged. His older brother, who obviously was fed up with him (or perhaps is a regular bully) had forced him into the cage and latched it. No mention was made of parents to intervene in the brothers’ dispute. The homeowner on whose property the boy had been caged had not appeared on the scene to set him free. Other cars driving by had ignored the caged boy, probably thinking like we did that the cage was not locked and the boy could crawl out whenever he wanted to.
I don’t know how long the boy had been in the cage. I don’t know whether he had been crying out for help and no one had responded. Maybe he was embarrassed and didn’t want to call attention to his situation. Maybe he was hopeless from the regular absence of parents and the bullying of an older brother. He wasn’t very forthcoming with information, even under questioning. We did discover that the boy is a year older than our grandson and that he goes to an elite private school nearby. In his embarrassment, he didn’t reveal much more information—nothing about the abuse of his older brother, nothing about his absent parents, nothing about any stability in his life.
We set the boy free physically from the cage, but we don’t know what other “cages” imprison him. In my subsequent reflections I thought of the phrase of the old Gospel song about “a soul set free,” and I realized that it is a lot easier to set a body free than it is to set a soul free. Now the question is, “How do we become a neighbor in Jesus’ sense of neighbor?"