on destitute teens and barbies

I know a teenager who is destitute.

The same girl steals. Of course she does. That’s what happens when you lack everything.

So when it came time to divvy extra Christmas cash, this girl did not make the cut. While others offered up her name, I shook my head.

Tsk. Tsk.

Hope is big and grace grand, but a thief?

Seriously, you expect me to give to a thief?

You’ve heard the stories about the drugs and the family drama and the jail time, right?


And then it happened; I saw her mother. Sure, I’ve seen her mom many times, but this time I saw her mother. The mother was standing on the side of the road with a blanket of goods stretched out before her: a couple of still packaged Barbies, neatly folded piles of clothes, and a baby doll stroller.

It was 31 degrees and the sky which threatened all day, finally started to sputter snow, but instead of snow falling, my own self-righteousness crashed straight through the roof of my perfectly heated car.

Instantly, poverty had a face, and it was the face of a person selling trinkets and tidbits from her house in the snow on the side of the road.

I wondered if the Barbies once belonged to the teenage girl. If as a little girl, she dreamed of brushing each doll’s perfectly styled hair. I imagined the girl’s mother telling her to leave the dolls in the box and that maybe one day her dolls would be worth some money.

One day.

photo credit.

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Amy L. Sullivan
SERVE Editor Word lover. Book devourer. Music addict. Amy is a Northern girl who found herself living in the South. She drinks sweet tea, turns her nose up at okra, and attempts to tell her daughters "yella" isn't a color.


  1. you’ve made my heart do many things, friend.
    today you made it cry.
    it is a privilege to be human, is it not? i am learning about that, more and more. and continue to pray that He shows me what that means–to its very depths and back.
    love you.

    • It is a privilege to be human. We don’t always see it that way, but it is, and as for the learning, it’s an every day thing. Thanks for your words, Steph.

  2. Wow, Amy. When poverty, immigration, homosexuality, abortion, or any of the other things we tend to get so self-righteous about, when those things have a name and a face and we live and love those names and faces, oh, how it changes and softens our hearts.

    • Amen, girl. How my attitude has changed when I actually meet and grow to love people involved in everything you listed.

  3. beautiful writing (seriously- some of your best), but even more beautiful vulnerability and raw honesty. i too have a tendency to get on my self-righteous pedestal at time……hard to really see Jesus up there though, huh? love you!

    • Yes, it IS hard to see Jesus when I place myself in his spot! Thanks for your encouragement, Renee.

  4. Just beautiful, the names and faces are beloved by God. They can be beloved to us too.

    • Lisa,
      Yes, they can be beloved to us too…but only if I really see them.

  5. I always feel similar emotions when I see those shoddy “yard sales”. It scares me to think too hard on why they’re scraping up the cash. No matter why, it’s not good. We’re all children of God, all struggling to track down hope. This is beautiful, Amy.

    • That coveted hope can be so tough to find, can’t she?

      And yes, the end of the month “yard sales” always get me. When our family lived in the city, I saw quite a few. One of our neighbors had one every Friday. I always thought about how much work it required to get out all the items out for the sale each week.

  6. This is so hard. I usually go too far in the other direction, but lately I’ve been so irritated to see people using their children to gain sympathy. It has made me angry instead of soft toward them. Need to work on that :(

    • Ahhh, yes, the old use your children for sympathy thing. I get that, but more often, I feel bad for the kids who have no idea what’s going on. I saw this outside of the mall the other day, a parent having a child hold a sign asking for money.

  7. Miss Amy,

    How you’ve said so much with so few words is amazing – perhaps because the Holy Spirit tells us the rest…


    • SimplyDarlene,
      Did I ever tell you I think it’s fun that you call me Miss Amy? Consider yourself told!

  8. It is so hard to watch others struggle. Such a lovely post. You are definitely a gifted writer.

    • Ihamer,
      Thank you for reading and taking the time to encourage me.

  9. Oh, Amy, my stomach is twisting.. I think that feeling has a name- conviction. And, yes, poverty becomes MY PROBLEM, too, when it has a face. And yet, there’s grace when God lets us see the face. The alternative? Facing Him with a hard heart some day. UGGHH…. And your writing? How do you say so much in so few words? I could use a lesson!

    • Alicia, If we met in real-life I would talk your ear off, and no one would ever say I was short on words, but in writing…I tend to write short posts. I think that’s due to my attention span, it’s…Wait…what were we talking about? Ha!

  10. i kind of feel like telling you to quit it. that’s how you slammed me today….i want to be just like you when i grow up. except i’m older than you…..so….

    • I’m sure you see very similar girls in the kids you teach. It’s crazy how you can kind of become desensitized to kids like this, you know?

      You are barely older than me. Plus, you are super fun. I think that subtracts a year or two.

  11. The book “same kind of different as me”…really shook my self-righteous heart…and I pray God continues to do the shaking…and these words…continue to do the shaking…thanks~

    • Ro, Great book! Just mentioned it yesterday in a post on my blog. I said something about dabbing your eyes and wiping away snot when you read it. Beautiful.

  12. Grace gets me every time… Some days it has to blindside me, but it gets to me.

    thank you for blindsiding me today, friend.

    You reminded me of the J.J. Heller song “Only Love Remains” Do you know it?

    Father, kill the thief in me…

    • Nikki,
      Most days grace blinds me…of course I always know it’s there, but I’m surprised just the same. Every time.

      And yes, “Only Love Remains,” I hadn’t thought of that, but you are right, it goes perfectly!

  13. Rips your heart out, like it should. Such a huge amount of need in our area. I see it almost every day at work. The days I don’t it’s probably because I just missed it. Love the words…meaningful!

    • Heath, Yep, it’s crazy that we see so much of it that sometimes we get used to it, yes? Thanks for reading, Heath.

  14. It’s much easier to drive by and not look – for when we look we see and when we see as God sees then we must act…
    Oh Amy, you always bring such thought provoking, well written words.



  1. on growing compassion by Amy L. Sullivan - BibleDude.net - [...] And this quote makes me wonder. Wonder about the times I looked suffering in the face. [...]

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