A Single Snapshot

I continue to be amazed how one photo has the power to bring such a flood of emotions.  Just when I think my heart is ok, one picture of my sweet friend Marie-and I’m crying.  See earlier blog post:   Face to Face with Child Abuse: Personal Reflections of a Teacher

A sweet teacher friend recognized Marie in an online adoption video and shared the link.  I had to watch it, of course.  Hearing how the social worker described her-listening as Marie answered questions about her favorite things-all I could think was, “I know the answer!”  Like an impatient student raising their hand, shouting, “Pick me! Pick me! Oh, and here’s some additional info you didn’t even ask for.”

I was struck by the social workers comment, “She deserves a family.”  I completely agree.  She’s not the only one.  While looking at this link, I saw pages and pages of other children-all with a story-all without a family.  And then my questions started all over again.  How does this happen?  Why does this happen so often?  What do we do to help?

My initial reaction was to shout inside my head, “I don’t have any answers!”  But when I took a step back and calmed my emotions, the following things came into focus:

  • Amazing people who have chosen to be foster parents.
  • Others who have adopted or are considering adoption.
  • People like myself-looking for ways to be an advocate and friend.

No, these positives won’t wipe away all the heartache.  They are however, small steps in the right direction.  When a child who has been neglected, abused, and deserted is able to experience love, acceptance, and security-the healing process begins.  I continue to witness this in my sweet friend.

There is still so much to do.  I don’t want to become complacent in searching for ways to advocate for my friend.  It’s also important for me to recognize the children right in front of me everyday who are facing the same kind of sadness and heartache.  Yes, it feels like an impossible, daunting task.  Today I was reminded of my role and responsibility-and for that reminder I’m thankful.

I was also reminded of the impact this one child has had on my heart.  No amount of my tears can cover the suffering she has endured, but seeing her smile gives me hope.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Galatians 6:9

 

Shelter

Words are powerful.  Even more so the images that accompany them.  Consider the word shelter.  For many of us, this word reminds us of safety and home.  But what if we add just one word…emergencyEmergency Shelter brings much different imagery. One final word moves us even further from protective pictures of safety and home… children’s.

Before my first visit to an Emergency Children’s Shelter, my imagination created snapshots in preparation for the experience-a clean building, professional staff, play areas, a visiting room.  In my mind the scene played out-a greeting from a smiling worker, thanking me for coming.  An onsite visit in a comfortable, nicely decorated area.  After all, this facility was providing care for children who had experienced trauma.

“Reality is the state of things as they actually appear, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined.”

When map quest directed me to turn down a gravel road blocked by an iron gate, my previous notions of what the day would bring began to fade.  A quick phone call put me back on track, giving two guiding landmarks.  Passing the second landmark, I noticed an older, run-down, unassuming house.  This couldn’t be right, I kept driving…dead end.  Cautiously turning around, I knew in my heart that old house was the place.  I noticed “Private Property” and “Video Surveillance” postings in the yard as I parked.  In crept feelings of nervousness and uncertainty.

Taking a deep breath, I walked to the door, spoke to the cat on the porch, and rang the bell. A calm, quiet proprietor answered. The precious young person I was visiting nervously stood at the back of the house.  My visions of a visit on the premises vanished as I spotted a backpack on the table.  My young friend was ready to go!  Now there were completely different reasons to be nervous.  Where would we go?  What would we do?  Concerns quickly faded with smiles, hugs, and laughter.

My earlier thoughts of shelter as concrete began to fade. Perhaps the word shelter should instead bring to mind promises of our Father and memories of people He places in our path.  Although these new, less tangible images give me courage for future visits, the words emergency and children’s remain.  Those words continue to hold much sadness and many unanswered questions.  Tempering them with the word shelter however, allows tiny bits of light to break through the clouds.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…” 

Isaiah 25:4

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