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?

Apr 132010

pro-tec-tor – (noun)  a person that protects; a guardian or defender*

The October sky was blue but there was certainly a chill in the air.  His small frame covered with a thin long-sleeve shirt didn’t offer much of a barrier against the breeze.  He sat on the steps of his home, trying to figure out what to do.  At 6 he was the caretaker of his 3 and 2 year old siblings.  He got them up in the mornings and fixed them breakfast – had an old burn stripe on his finger from touching the hot coils of the toaster.  He knew how to make macaroni and cheese, and to microwave soup and fix sandwiches.  He made sure their noses were wiped, and changed his little sister’s diapers the best he could.  And he tucked them into bed at night.  All the while his mom spent most of the day either passed out on the couch or away from the house, looking for her next fix. 

Most of the time he didn’t mind helping – he knew his mom had a lot she was struggling with, and he wanted to make it as easy on her as he could.  He loved her very much, and as he shivered against the wind, his mind wandered back to days when she read him stories and gave him big hugs.  When it seemed like she loved him.  He hadn’t gotten that kind of attention for at least a couple of years.  And his siblings never had, except from him.  That thought snapped him back to the reality of the porch.  He tried the door again, but it was still locked.  His mom had woken up in a bad mood and was screaming and throwing things at his little brother.  When he intervened, his mom had dragged him out on the porch and locked the door. 

He began to walk down the street, slowly at first, but then with increasing confidence, toward the fire station a block away.  “Can you help me  sir?  My sister and brother are in danger, and it’s my job to protect them – can you help me?  We need a better life than this.  There has to be something better than this.”

Courage is found in many different places.  Sometimes it is even packaged in the small body of a 6 year old.  What about you?  Will you be courageous?

Apr 082010

When I was growing up, safety was the last thing on my mind.  We didn’t lock our house, left our car running when we made a quick trip into the store, and walked everywhere without our parents.  Not only was my community safe, my home was safe.  There were no locks on bedroom doors, no worries about what might happen when my dad came home, or what my mom might be doing in the next room. 

That is not true for every child.

She was 10 when I met her.  She still possessed a child’s frame, with barely any evidence that she had begun the journey to womanhood.  She looked fearful as she entered the exam room, and that fear increased in magnitude when I shut the door.  I quickly explained that nothing would hurt, there wouldn’t be any shots – assuming that like most kids, her concern was about seeing a doctor.  But the look on her face didn’t soften.  I touched her arm, hoping to reassure her.  She recoiled as if I had punched her.  I saw her glance quickly at the male medical student who was with me, and I began to understand her concern.  He and I had reviewed her basic info – the police report stated that she had been sexually abused by a male family member for a couple of years.  She had finally told her best friend at school, who told the teacher, and now here she was. 


At least from our point of view.  But safety is not just a location, not just about being in a place where you aren’t harmed.  It is a state of mind.  It is being in a mental place where a door closing doesn’t cause your heart to race.  It is being able to experience healthy, normal human touch without withdrawing.  It is being able to sleep without wondering when your night is going to be interrupted. 

Safety is more than separation from danger.  It is finding a place where you are loved, accepted, and cherished.  Where body, soul and spirit can thrive.  THAT is the kind of safety we must seek to provide.  After all, isn’t it what WE desire?  We shouldn’t settle for anything less for these kids.