Sep 172010

It had been two years since our first encounter, when she came to foster care as a victim of years of sexual abuse by a close family member.  My mind flashed back to that day, to that kid.  To the anger, fear, and depression, the desire to leave this world far behind, with no hope at all that the next would be any better.  Flashed back to the fresh carving on her stomach.


The sound of a baby crying in the next room snapped my attention back to the present.  To the confident, half-smiling young lady sitting on my exam table.  “I remember you from when I was here before,” she said.  She was so different.  I was speechless, didn’t know what to say or how to even ask what the difference was, so I stalled.  Listened to her heartbeat, looked in her ears, that sort of thing.  Finally, the words came. 

“How are you doing?  Or maybe the real question I want answered is how are you doing so well?”

She smiled even wider, and told me about the family that had taken care of her after she left the shelter.  How they had treated her like one of their own kids.  Had taught her about family and trust and relationships and value.  Her answer to my question?

“I have been with someone who loves me.” 

Simple.  Powerful.  Life-changing. 

Will someone say that about you or me?  That being in OUR presence meant that they were with someone who loved them?  I hope so.  With all my heart, I hope so.

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.

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?

Feb 042010

One of my favorite reality TV shows is The Biggest Loser.  I enjoy the creative competitions, last-chance workouts, and of course the drama of the weigh-in.  But what fascinates me most might be lost on the majority of viewers.  Every once in a while there will be an occasion when a contestant has a private conversation about their weight issues with one of the trainers.  There are usually tears flowing as the trainer probes the depths of the contestant’s soul, attempting to get at the cause of a lifetime of unhealthy behaviors.  In the middle of all the made-for-TV drama, if you listen closely, you will hear them answer.

My parents divorced.  I was molested.  My mom was a drug addict.  No one cared about me.  I was abandoned. 

Now THAT is reality.  Reality is that some kids have a childhood full of pain and loss.  Reality is that some kinds of adversity screw you up.  Reality is that surviving childhood does not guarantee a clean slate into adulthood.

Want to know more?  Stay tuned for the next episode…