Fall was in the air but it was still comfortable enough to sit outside. I was wrapping up a volunteer meeting on the patio of a local restaurant when all of a sudden, I heard, what seemed to be a fight on the other side of the shrubs near our table. For a few brief moments I argued with myself to just stay put, but when I heard the cries of a young girl, mama bear kicked in, and I ran to the scene.
Sure enough, it was a fight, and sure enough, a little 8-year-old girl was there crying for her mom and the other woman to stop fighting. The little girl’s 14-year-old sister and a friend held the little girl back as the two women continued in the physical and verbal fight for a few brutal moments longer. I ran up to try and defuse the aggression and finally, they broke apart and stormed off in different directions, screaming at one another as they went.
The little girl, Ashley, her sister and friend, Cassie and Tiffany, stayed behind, holding the little girl from chasing her mom. I stepped forward to see if there was something I could do to help, Cassie, the 14-year-old sister said, “It’s okay, this happens all the time. She’s drunk.”
Being a mother of four daughters and grandmother of 7 little ones, my heart sunk to think of the ongoing trauma these young girls faced on an ongoing basis. I prayed and asked God to help me navigate the situation. “Lord, please bring hope and peace to this chaotic moment!”
The little girl, Ashley, was still crying, so I knelt down beside her and asked, “Do you like bikes?” I’m sure she thought it was a crazy question in that setting, but it’s all I could think of to distract her from the intense worry she was experiencing as she watched her mom storm off. As silly as the question was, it worked! With tears in her eyes, she nodded and said, “yes, I like bikes.” I responded to her, “Good! Because I believe I have one just your size at my bike shop, and it just needs a good home.”
I had their attention and I knew I needed to run with it. I turned to the two 14-year-old girls, Cassie and Tiffany, and said to them, “Are you girls interested in a job?” Again, crazy questions considering the circumstances, but I so far, the impromptu plan was working!
From there I shared with them about the apprenticeship program at Braking Cycles Coffee & Bike Shop. I invited them to the café for a snack, a conversation, a bike and the start of an apprenticeship.
We stayed in the little circle for a while, and I knew I had nothing to lose in asking if I could pray for them When I asked permission to pray, Cassie, with a bit of defensiveness in her eyes, said, “I’m not religious!” I quickly responded, “That’s great! I’m not religious either, but I love God! She smiled and proceeded to give me permission to pray. So I did.
So there we stood, in a small huddle…me, a precious crying eight-year-old girl, and two 14-year-old girls dressed in a manner that would hurt any parent’s heart…and we prayed. An evening so unpredictable by any of us, but so perfectly planned by God.
The next day, all three walked into Braking Cycles, bright-eyed and ready to collect what was promised; a bike for little Ashley, snacks for them all, and the start of a 12-week paid apprenticeship.
Week after week our team worked with Cassie, and week after week we saw her show up, take every step, and grow. She took this experience seriously and she embraced the opportunity.
I have seen many moments of transformation over the years, and this one is yet another that will be etched in my mind forever.
Cassie wore a little red dress and tall black high heels to her graduation ceremony. For those who don’t know Cassie and this backstory, they may have held a bit of judgment if they had seen this red dress and high heel shoes. They may wonder what growth happened in the 12 weeks with the team. But for those of us who watched Cassie walk so proudly into the café for her graduation ceremony, we knew it was a landmark moment. Watching this young girl work so hard to complete this program was extraordinary in itself, but watching her proudly bring her mother to witness the ceremony, yes, the very woman in the fight at the restaurant…we’ll, it took it to a whole new level.
As part of Cassie’s graduation, she gave a speech about what the program meant to her. “People have always told me I’m worth nothing and I’ll never accomplish anything. Today I proved to myself those things aren’t true. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to finish the 8th grade. I’m ready to take it on now because I know I can do it.”
We joyously celebrated Cassie that day. And we will continue to celebrate this amazing girl as she graduates the 8th grade in June.
*** the names and identity of those in this story have been changed. This is a true and miraculous story. We would love for you to join us in continuing prayers for “Cassie”, “Tiffany”, little “Ashley” and their mama.