“You wanted to see me, Chaplain?”
Peter motioned with his hand as he shook his head. “Yeah, come on in. You know, you can call me Peter.”
“Whatever you say, Chaplain.” Ken said with a broad smile. “What did you want to see me about?”
“Well, I just wanted to talk to you a little. Do you have time?”
“I’m free until dinner. Kate says she’s making baked chicken tonight. She makes it better than anyone on the planet, so I don’t want to miss that.” Ken’s smile was infectious. One that forced itself upon everyone around, extracting some sort of smile in return.
“Sounds good. I guess I shouldn’t miss that either then. We also have a youth group coming to help serve tonight.” Peter glanced down at his desk as he paused.
“Is something wrong, Chaplain?”
“No. Nothing is wrong. I just wanted to talk to you about… How long have you been here, Ken?”
“About two years… Uh oh. You’re kicking me out, aren’t you. I’ve been at the mission too long?”
“No. No. It’s nothing like that. I… I guess I can see why you thought that based on my question.”
Ken’s smile disappeared and he sat upright in his chair.
Peter continued, “I’ve seen you make a lot of changes in your time here. I see you growing, Ken. I’ve seen you break out of your shell. I’ve seen you begin to encourage the new guys that come in. And I just wonder if maybe… maybe it’s time for you to reach out to Lynn.”
Hearing Lynn’s name left a knot in Ken’s stomach. “And say what? Hi Lynn, your dad who used to beat you when he was drunk now lives in a homeless shelter?”
“No. Just reach out to her. Tell her how your doing. Tell her how you’ve changed.”
“She hates me. Why would she want to hear any of that?”
“You don’t know that she hates you.”
“She told me she did. I’ve told you all about that night I left. She doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“That was five years ago. She was angry. You were angry. She was eleven years old. You won’t know how she feels now unless you reach out to her.”
“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“She needs to know that her father loves her. She doesn’t know the real you. Maybe she can forgive you?”
“Listen, I can buy into all your talk about God loving me and forgiving me and stuff, but this ain’t God we’re talking about. This is a little girl who hates her father as much as anything – and for good reason.”
“You’re right. This is a little girl – your little girl, Ken. And that’s exactly why you need to reach out to her.”
“What if she rejects me?”
“You can’t control that. All you can do is let her know that you’re sorry and that you are changing. The rest is out of your hands.”
Ken stared at Peter’s desk as he thought about the possibility of calling Lynn. Scenes from their last encounter flashed through his mind as he choked back more tears. Finally he stood up. “I don’t know, Chaplain. I just don’t know.”
“Well, pray about it. And I’ll be praying for you as well.”
As he entered the hall he could hear the voices in the dinning room. After taking a moment to make sure the tears were gone he got his food and sat down at a table alone. The chicken didn’t seem appetizing at the moment. He glanced around the room, observing the group of teenagers along the far wall. The kids talked nervously to each other, but none of them seemed to know what to do.
Ken’s gaze suddenly stopped on one girl. He felt the knot in his stomach tighten even more. This girl appeared to be about sixteen – the same age that Lynn would be now. But even more surprising was how much she looked like Lynn. Her hair was curly and long just like Lynn used to wear hers and she had Lynn’s smile. Even though he had not seen her for the past five years, this is exactly what he would have imagined her to look like now.
She hates me. I don’t see how she could ever forgive me.
“You mind if we sit with you?”
Ken looked up to see Jerry and Pam. “No, go ahead.” He was thankful for some company to get his mind off Lynn. He stole one more glance at the teenagers, but couldn’t seem to find Lynn’s look-alike.
“Is it ok if I join you all?” A sweet, youthful voice called out.
“Sure!” Jerry and Pam replied, almost in unison.
Ken nodded, but couldn’t speak. Look-alike girl was now sitting directly beside him. Most teenagers that came to help at the mission kept their distance, but she was right here – and talking up a storm. Fortunately for him, Pam carried the conversation. He poked at his chicken with his fork, but couldn’t eat. He listened as look-alike girl talked about school and homework and movies.
He didn’t hear everything she said as he found himself wondering at each topic what Lynn would be talking about. Was she struggling with math? Did she find most of the boys in her class to be too immature? Was she going next week to get a dress for the homecoming dance?
At one point Ken’s eyes met with look-alike girl’s eyes. The smile she offered was more than he could take.
“I guess I need to get back to my room.” He looked away, dabbing at his eyes, and left.
Back in his room, his hand shook as he looked at the piece of paper with a phone number scrawled on it. Is it possible she could forgive me?