The child's cheeks were dusty. Specs of dirt above is eyebrow and under his nails gave the appearance of an active and playful child. The frown and downcast eyes, did not. Perhaps more indicative was that he stood alone.
The back of the room wasn't dark or unfriendly, it was filled with the same lighting, mood, and sound. Music and the long held notes of a choir, the out of tune crooning of an elderly woman, the shuffling of a pair of hole-ridden shoes. The church was full of hymns and the raised voices of the congregation. As the praises softened, the pastor's voice echoed through the hall.
It was time for tithes. The ushers walked solemnly towards the pulpit, stoping short of the couple of steps that separated them from the raised platform the preacher stood on. After a prayer, the ushers, in their ties and well fitted jackets, strode along the aisle and passed the small basins to the sitting members. Left to right, right to left, the bowls passed between the contributors and back to the suits. They made their way to the back slowly, as a solemn and march-like hymnal played from a small piano in the corner.
When the offering came to the small unsupervised boy in the back he took it in one hand, then fished into his pocket. A crumpled wad of bills and paper produced itself and he separated the trash and greasy wrappings of his last meal from a pair of one dollar bills. Hand shaking, he moved to drop the cash in, and as he did deftly snatched a five dollar bill up underneath some of the trash still in his hand.
The usher stood over him, watching and aware. But said nothing and took the tithe bowl from the boy when he offered it. Completing his duty by waiting for the other ushers to finish their walks to the back wall, he thought about what he had just seen. Distracted, he started a bit late on the walk back up to the stage. He took a small amount more time than the other ushers as he pivoted and turned to walk back to his seat.
He was sitting next to his wife, trying to focus on a sermon that seemed more and more superfluous when he saw the child stand. The usher leaned towards his wife, told her his need of the facilities, and then stopped and shuffled past the irritated elderly as he walked out to the foyer, past the restrooms, and out towards the boy on the steps.
Startled, the boy shook and turned. His lip quivering a little as he noticed the usher's familiar face.
"Where are your parents?"
Unresponsive, the dirt covered their clutched his hands together trying to hide the greenback from view. His body half turned as if to run, but his feet immobile like they were stapled to the ground.
"Do you need help?"
Perhaps it was the tone of voice; perhaps it was the smile as he said help; perhaps it was just that he had come from a church; regardless of why, the boy trusted him and lurched forward and hugged his leg.