the stray

The fingernails are always dirty, the papers crumpled, the creases a stained black wrinkle.

Eyes like peeled apples – yellow, mealy bobbles. Mouths like puppeteer hands, “We’re here to sell magazines to keep off the streets.”

Clothes like careless flags on floating poles. They have no land. They are of no home. No people.

I’ve had several knock on my door, the products of labor trafficking, their bosses assuming all profit in exchange for bus travel, a few sleeps in hotels, a taco from Taco Bell. Always the same believable story.

Repeatedly, they are left far from their original streets, homeless, alone – some with sick sweet rocks in their pockets to burn in the dark.

D’Angelo wandered here to the apartments, right in the middle of our play area where princesses and pirates forgot they were children.

He said they left him, and I recognized the story.

I tried talking. He didn’t understand. He tried to tell me some whys, not selling anything except his need to find the boss he’d tried to reach for days. I didn’t understand, wanted to woo him away. Many here at the apartments put their heads together, wanted to offer jobs and life and permanentness, but we’re all ill-fit for this, cuffed. Instead they fed him, put him up for the night, and took him for a bus.

He even came back after getting a ride away, and he leaves with clothes that aren’t his, a hotdog, and a smile.

He thinks I’m beautiful, calls me Honey. I see myself in the reflection of gold-rimmed glasses.

Tired stray dog.

Image of God.


  1. exactly.
    love to you.

  2. Oh my gosh… this just broke my heart this morning… we talk so much about sex-trafficking… we forget about labor trafficking.

  3. WOW!

  4. Wow,
    Thank you for telling his story. He is among “the least of these” that Jesus talks of. God Bless you

  5. oh my.

  6. “Come all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

  7. “…but we’re all ill-fit for this…”

    I saw a guy on the beach once. He was renting chairs for the day. I chatted with him and totally missed it. Trafficking never even entered my mind. And when I ran over to tell my sister about our conversation, she knew it right away.

  8. Oh my goodness, Amber. I’ve been *this close* to writing about the magazine sales kids for YEARS now. My sister filled me in on their story a long time ago. When they come to my door, I smile and tell them I don’t need any magazines, but I ask if they would like to use the phone, maybe they would like to call home? Some look at me like I’m crazy, but others take me up on my offer with tears in eyes. My heart breaks. I send them away with a brown paper bag with meager offerings of granola bars, fruit, water, and any spare cash I have on hand.

    I could never have written it up as beautifully as you have here.

  9. I never realized. Perhaps because the young people I’ve seen have been neater, cleaner, more well spoken, and I assumed they were from local schools. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Thank you for posting this. I will take Megan’s advice and offer a phone, and whatever else I can think of.

  10. i had no idea either! I will not miss an opportunity to help if ever one comes knocking again.
    Thank you for the post.

  11. I’ve already read this once.
    I’m back.
    I’m turning it over in my brain.
    I’m telling my husband about it.
    It’s just…everything.

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