Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Davion Navar Henry Only I’m not one to say that a story I read on the Internet broke my heart, but the story of Davion Only did a number on me. The fifteen-year-old orphan was born in prison. He has circulated through foster homes and now lives in a group home. He learned that his mother was dead last June when he Googled her name.

The Tampa Bay Times reported all this as Davion’s backstory for the day he stood, a tall teenage boy wearing a suit too big for him, in front of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church. He came to church to ask someone—anyone—to adopt him.

As I read about Davion, I immediately began trying to think through my list of married friends who might give a fifteen-year-old boy a home. I prayed that someone else touched by Davion’s story would come forward.  (Touched is too light a word. I had been wrung out like a washcloth.)

My prayer was heard.  Within a few weeks, the Tampa Bay Times reported that over 10,000 families have inquired about adopting Davion.

Davion’s story spread across the Internet because the need was so simple. He was one boy who had never had a family but who wanted one. He was willing to stand up in front of a church and confess that he wanted someone to love him. How many fifteen-year-olds would do that?

The Tampa Bay Times could have run an article highlighting the fact that there are 14,000 children in foster care in the state of Florida. While true, this fact would not have had the effect that the picture of Davion had. Some would credit the remarkable response to the “power of story,” and they might be right. But the story of Davion Only also highlights the remarkable response of human beings to specific, meetable needs.

Large numbers inevitably become abstractions. What is the difference between 2 billion and 3 billion? Although we may cognitively know the answer is 1 billion, when it comes to the ability of our minds to conceive it, there is practically no difference. I may shake my head at the statistic that 24,000 infants die in our country in a given year, but finding the grave of just one of those infants in a cemetery can make me cry.

The needs of our world are great. When I am confronted with those needs in all of their statistical enormity, I feel like going back to bed. I know that I will never make a dent in those statistics. Abstract need summons abstract response.

When I heard the story of one boy sweating in a borrowed suit, his story laid a claim on me. And I am not alone.

Photo courtesy of Tim Boyles  and the Heart Gallery .

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles