He was living with an aunt but had been excluded from one of the more tolerant local primary schools, and so had her tearing her hair out. Aged seven he was less emotionally mature than his two-year-old cousin or my two year-old son, except that he took seriously my injunction to show them how to behave. In effect, for much of the time I had a three child nursery class. Stories, Auntie Mabel on video, a few sums, very basic PE in the local park, lots of praise and cuddles all round.
One day he was very subdued: a grey-faced mother had arrived on a day visit from prison.
Soon after that she claimed him back; he had just made a success of a return to school, but neither school nor his aunt knew where he was.
I met him in a nearby town when he nearly had me off my feet with his rumbustious greeting; the girl he introduced as his sister was too wary to let him tell me his address.
Three months later his mother’s partner killed him with an overdose of heroin.
The only prayer is to hold them all before the Lord.
And to pray that the other prisoners I have introduced to you may be aware of One who can guide them through the dark. night.