Her name was Ingrid and I was just nine years old when I met her, a girl a little younger than me, who lived at the end of the street of council houses we had just moved to.
She had long, dirty-blond hair that was unkempt, and she smelled of stale urine. The other children call her "Pongo."
I didn't know everything there was to know about God. My theology was formed by what I learned at school, in Religious Knowledge class. I learned a lot, too, from the hymns that we sang in morning assembly. I knew that Jesus had said that what we did to the person who was least in the eyes of the world, he considered it done to him. That made a deep impression on my nine year old heart, and I easily connected the dots when it came to how Ingrid should be treated, although I never knew her well.
One day we heard that she had lain down in the road and tried to get run over. Wide eyed and dismayed, I wondered what would make someone want to do that.
Her dad got sent away to prison, and never came back again. Years later her mum married another man. By then I heard that Ingrid's dad had done things with his daughter that were wrong. I had no real concept of what that meant for Ingrid at the time.
I have never forgotten her and I wonder where she is now. Her older sister, seemed popular with the boys and to have a flock of them on bicycles, circling around their house, but Ingrid just seemed to fade away somehow. She was only a peripheral figure in my childhood; one of the children on the street, but not one of those that played hopscotch on the pavement outside our house. She was just a shadow girl from the house at the end of the row.
Matthew 25:34-40 (The Message)
34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'