Jul 122012

“I just wanted to say goodbye.”  I looked up from my paperwork to see his blond head poking through the doorway of the clinic.  “I’m leaving today.  They found a home for me.”  It had only been a couple of weeks since he arrived at the emergency foster shelter, but I had fallen in love with his broad grin and hi-5’s as I passed through every morning.  I gave him a quick hug, but then he pulled back, and with a serious look on his face, dug into the back pocket of his faded jeans, pulling out a worn white letter-sized envelope.  He opened it and dumped out its contents.  A few dollar bills and some coins bounced across my desk.  I looked up, puzzled.  “It’s to help the other kids, the ones here who don’t have much.  It’s all I have.”

My mind jumped to a centuries old story of someone else who gave everything. 

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”  Luke 21: 1-4 (NLT)

I was speechless, and when I didn’t immediately respond, he backed up a step and dropped his head a little.  “I know it isn’t very much, but it’s all I have and so many kids here don’t have anything.  I thought maybe I could do something.”  I didn’t know what to do so I just grabbed him and held him tight.  One last hi-5 and he was gone, but in no way forgotten.  His words are still with me.

“It’s all I have.  I thought maybe I could do something.”

What could the foster system look like if a bunch of people thought we could do something if we gave everything we have.  Resources.  Time.  Home.  Family.  Love.  I’ll tell you what it would look like – it would be a story of hope so great that it would still be talked about in 2000 years.  Is it worth it to you?  Will you give all you have?  Or just whatever you have left over…

Mar 302012

THE MEETING HAS BEEN MOVED TO THE SECOND FLOOR.  The handwritten sign was taped to the wall.

Voices echoed from the conference room, then laughter and crying.  Curious, I peered through the glass door, wondering what occasion had displaced my schedule.  The big conference table that normally occupied the center of the room had been scooted over against the wall.  A few kids were sitting by it, coloring.  Others were running around the room, kicking a ball.  A couple were sitting on the floor, crying giant crocodile tears.  I stepped closer.  Air mattresses and cots lined the wall.  What in the world was going on?  This looked more like a slumber party than a board room.  Or perhaps a shelter, like the kind you see on TV when there has been a hurricane.

A shelter.  For kids who have no where else to stay.  For kids in foster care.  “There are no open foster homes, and all the actual shelter buildings are full.  This is the shelter overflow,” I was told.  My mind jumped to another story of a child with nowhere to stay.

“She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”  Luke 2:7 (NLT)

At least in that story there was a mom and a dad.  In this one, there were only children, supervised in a conference room turned bedroom by a few case workers turned caregivers.  I wondered who these kids had the potential to be.  Teachers?  Athletes?  Doctors?  Maybe, but the reality is that they have no resources.  No source of comfort or encouragement.  A better chance of being a prostitute or a prisoner than anything else.  At least prostitutes and prisoners have a bed.

I wonder why, in a country of thousands of churches, of millions of homes with a spare bedroom and an extra car seat, why foster kids sleep on an air mattress in a county office.  Why people who label themselves as Christians don’t see the face of Christ himself  in the laughter and the tears of these children.  Who will YOU see?  And what will YOU do about it?

“For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”  Matthew 25:35 (NLT)





Aug 182010

“There are no concerns.”

I stared at the paper, but the words didn’t change.  “There are no concerns.”  There it was, my handwriting in black ink on the medical chart.  In medical language, it means that the patient isn’t sick.  They don’t feel bad.  There is nothing wrong.  Normally that is a good thing.  But this time, as I sat filling out yet another medical form for yet another child entering the emergency foster shelter, I found myself overtaken with emotion.

                                               Anger.  Disgust.  Frustration.  Sadness.  Worry. 

I wrote that there were no concerns.  But that isn’t true.  I have concerns.  I have lots of concerns.  Concerns about these children.  About what they will think about and what they will feel when the lights go out at night and the shelter is quiet.  About where they will live next, and whether the family who takes them in will treat them as their own or merely as transients.  About whether their social worker will get to know them as human beings or just by a case number.  About when they will see their family again, and whether that reunion will be filled with joy or anger or fear. 

We should be concerned.  And may that concern fuel our actions.  May it compel us to get out of our comfortable lives where most of our concern is for ourselves, and to be concerned for someone else for a change.

Aug 162010

I stopped watching the weather forecast a month ago.  That is when the weatherman said the dreaded words:

heat dome

In Oklahoma, we know what that means.  It means that a high pressure system is sitting right on top of us.  It means that the atmosphere has a lid right over our heads, a lid that allows the sun’s rays to find their way in but never out.  It means that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, or cook dinner on your car hood if you wanted to. 

Heat.  Pressure.

His shoulders slumped slightly, as if he carried the world on them.  Quiet at first, but when I asked about his younger siblings, he spoke up, telling humorous stories about his attempts to keep them somewhat out of trouble.  The conversation shifted to his dad, and the quiet returned.  Alcoholic, violent, angry.  When dad was awake, the kids hid.  In their rooms, the garage, under the porch.  One day a neighbor saw the kids playing and brought them some lemonade.  A conversation started.  Over time, they felt safe.  Then one night, when they needed a hiding place, they ran to the neighbor’s house.  There are new challenges now, but no hiding.  No drunken rage.

Some kids feel heat and pressure every single day.  It doesn’t go away when the seasons change.  But it can be relieved when we are willing to be a refuge, a safe place for those around us who need it.

Will you be a refuge?

Mar 092010

From kids in foster care…

No one could really understand what my life is like.  No one pays attention to what I do, or cares about how I feel.  No one looks me in the eye and say “I love you and care about you,” and even if they did, I wouldn’t believe them.  No one that I love has stayed around for very long.  I don’t feel safe because there are too many dangerous things in the world.  I hurt in ways that no one else understands.  When I needed you most, you left me and now I am broken in a million pieces.  Please help me put the pieces together, because I don’t know what to do.

Enough said.  What will you do to help?

“Pure, unstained religion…is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer…”          James 1:27 (GWT)

Feb 172010

I have this lamp that sits on the side table in my living room.  It puts off a soft, yellow light, and for many years it was the light that I left on at night to help me see in case I needed to get up and move around the house.  One day it quit working, and I assumed it needed a new light bulb.  Eventually I got around to changing the bulb, but it didn’t work.  I was sad – perhaps the lamp was broken.  I really liked that lamp.  In the middle of my sadness, my husband leaned over the end table and plugged it in – magic!  It, and its old bulb, worked just fine.

In case you didn’t notice, I love telling stories.  It is how I communicate.  As a story-teller, I can use language to help you understand the struggles of kids in foster care, and if I am really fortunate, I might even be able to stir up some emotion.  I’m glad – I would be worried about whether you were alive if you weren’t a little bit stirred.  But emotion will not change the lives of these kids.  It will not bring light to darkness – to do that, you have to plug in.  So today, I am going to tell you about an organization that is committed to foster kids, and it is a place you can get involved. 

Citizens Caring for Children was created in 1984 – it was the brain child of George and Rose Harper, a couple who had taken in foster kids.  As children moved through their home, the Harpers realized that while foster kids may come with some social or emotional baggage, they don’t come with any physical baggage.  In fact, some of them have only the clothes on their backs.  So, the Harpers decided to do something about it.  They enlisted the help of the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, OK and began providing basic necessities to foster kids – clothes, school supplies, etc.  Now, 26 years later, the organization is still going strong.  It is a quality place to pour your resources and your time, so if you are moved at all by the stories of foster kids, and you are looking for a way to help, Citizens Caring for Children is a place to start.