Apr 192010

“Would you recognize him?”, she asked.  I stared intently at the boy.  There was something something about him that seemed vaguely familiar, but certainly didn’t stand out to me.  It had been a half dozen years since I’d seen him, and he was a baby then.  My mind wandered back to a hospital room, where I had discussed his likely future outcome with his new foster mom.  The brain injury he had suffered at the hands of his mom’s boyfriend was one of the worse I’d seen.  I was certain he would die, and when he didn’t, I secretly wondered if it wouldn’t have been a better outcome than the life he was now beginning. 

She had listened to my medical opinion, and then announced that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that he would not only walk, he would do much more.  I didn’t press the issue.  We could work that out over time. 

“Would you?”, she asked again.  “No, I don’t think so”.  The school-age boy was sitting on a bench in my office playing his handheld video game.  “You told me he wouldn’t walk, but he does a lot more than that.  He is in school, and he draws pictures and is learning how to read.”  For a half hour she went on to share details of their life together since she had become his foster mom.  She was so proud of him.  She believed in him.  And it had made all the difference. 

The truth is, I don’t know why some kids with a brain injury lie silent, fed by tubes their entire lives, while others walk and talk and run.  But I do know this – hope is a powerful thing.  It can change the outcome of a disease or of a life.  And another thing I know?  It is contagious.  I left that room feeling more of it than my heart could even begin to hold. 

Sometimes it is nice to be wrong.

Feb 262010

I love to fly.  I always choose a window seat right over the wing, near the jets so I can best hear the roar of the engines and watch the wing shape change as we take off and land.  Yesterday I was flying, and even though I have flown many times, when the plane was sitting on the end of the runway waiting to take off, I found myself doubting this would actually work.  I doubted that it could truly launch itself into the air. There is too much weight.  People.  Baggage.  And it starts too slowly – those first few feet of movement were painfully slow.  But the thing about a plane is, it was made to fly.  It was shaped a specific way, and it was outfitted with engines that are capable of producing tremendous thrust, if they are fueled properly.  And when the engines were powered, the plan moved faster and faster, and eventually, in a few hundred feet, those jets were able to move the monstrous piece of metal fast enough that aerodynamics took over and it lifted off the ground.  In a few seconds, the ride was so smooth and easy that it seemed like we could stay in the air forever.

I sat back in my seat, and my mind wandered where it usually does, to foster kids.  They too are often heavy, weighed down with a lot of baggage.

I was molested, so now I don’t trust men.  Or I use my body to get what I want.  I was physically abused, so now I believe that I deserve what I get, and move from abusive relationship to abusive relationship.  My emotional needs weren’t met, so I suck the life out of others, desperately trying to fill up my own soul.  I wasn’t provided for, so I steal whatever I want.

It is easy to believe that a kid carrying that kind of weight won’t be able to get off the ground.  But the truth is, they, like all humans, they were made to fly.  Born for it.  Born to be something greater than just highly organized collection of carbon and water walking around surviving. 

They need fuel.  They need us to provide the thing that powers them.  Encouragement.  Expectation.  Opportunity.  Love.  Hope. 

Without it, they are grounded.  With it, if they can get off the ground, they might just fly forever. 

Are you willing to fuel someone’s hopes and dreams?  Willing to mentor?  To tutor?  To set expectations and encourage/assist a kid in reaching them?  Are you willing to help someone fly?