Saturday, May 24, 2014

Made My Weekend

For the first time in 18 years (yes seriously) I am home for Memorial Day weekend. This weekend is traditionally Marshal's family reunion at Treat, Arkansas. While we have been rebels and gone on trips with friends a couple of times throughout the years, the majority of them we have been at the reunion. Being home seems strange and I think neither Marshal or I know what to do with ourselves.

Last night we decided to go eat at the Wooden Spoon. We didn't get there until 5:30 so we had an hour wait in front of us. It was a beautiful night though, so we didn't mind at all sitting around on the swings and just enjoying the evening.

Marshal and I are both big ease droppers. We love to listen to other peoples conversations and we have gotten really good and communicating with each other nonverbally about whatever it is we are listening to. This was the prefect set up for us. They had this big round circle with four individual porch swings hanging from it. Therefore, we had three other groups of people to watch and listen to.

This one family in particular caught my attention. It was a lady and her three daughters. I kept watching the youngest daughter, as she looked very familiar to me.

Ok side story: As a teacher at an elementary school with a high population of free and reduced lunch kids the absolute hardest part of your job is the emotional attachment you have to individual children and their stories. I don't even care to recall how many children have broken my heart with their life story. I am talking about five, six, and seven year olds that have dealt with more pain and heartache than most of us do in a lifetime.

Alright back to last night. This family and this little girl, I kept watching her and listening to her mom. She looked so much like a child I knew from school. A little girl that had been neglected to the point that her social and academic behavior were almost unmanageable. I didn't have her as a student, but had the older brother in my class. He had a multitude of needs himself and his parents came in almost daily for various reasons. During that school year the mom became pregnant with another child. I, along with the special education team at my school, became increasingly alarmed at the ability of these parents to care for their children. They were not being neglectful in a purposeful way. They simply didn't have the mental capacity to know how to take care of their children. Sometime in the next year all three children were taken out if the home for extreme neglect . The children were placed in foster care homes. Both the boy and the baby sister were quickly adopted by the foster care parents. However this girl was kicked out of foster care home, after foster care home. Her needs were so vast that none of the families that attempted to keep her lasted very long and the children's shelter would not accept her either. This was devastating to me. I don't know how many afternoons, I spent driving home crying over this little girl and her situation.

This girl I was seeing couldn't be the same child. This girl, although the physical resemblance was so much the same, acted so incredibly different. She acted happy, and intelligent, and carefree. She looked healthily and strong. The other kicker was her mom and sisters were not calling her by the name I recognized.

I played it over and over in my head. What could I do, what could I say, to figure this out. I didn't want to come across disrespectful, or like a crazy lunatic. Then, as if all my thoughts had been read out loud, a lady in a different family, on another porch swing said to the little girls mom, " How did you end up with three girls? They must be so much fun at your house." The mom replied, well actually I chose to have three girls. They are all adopted.

Well I pounced on that comment bigger than day. Talk about total rudeness. I butted my way into that conversation faster than a bumble bee. I could see Marshal with his mouth hanging open from the back of my head. I just went for it. I told her who I was, I told her how I knew her little girl, and then I just started crying. She told me that yes I was indeed right. She told me of the uphill battle she had to fight to keep her. She told me about the little girl asking to change her own name because she had a fresh start on life. She told me about the siblings. She told me about how the child was thriving.

Talk about chill bumps. I was moved beyond words. I tried my darnedest to thank that woman. I know my words didn't even come close to how my heart was feeling.

I am by absolutely no means belittling the importance of foster care and adoption of a child of any age. However, those that choose to become a parent to a child above the age of five hold a special place in my heart. I have the absolute most upmost thankfulness and respect for them. Once again my words don't seem to come close to what I am feeling. Choosing to take in a child that has already been hurt and damaged by this world is nothing short of being an angel.

I have considered many times becoming a foster parent and maybe one day I will. I am not saying that it even comes close, but right now I feel called to love the 20 children that come through my door each August. For some of them I am the only consistent thing in their life. I am their only safe place and at times it can be emotionally draining. However, each child marks my heart forever. Very rarely do I get to see what becomes of the children once they leave my room in May (sometime June-ugh!), but last nights opportunity not only made my weekend, but give me great hope for all of the A's (for safely I am not using her name) out there.

After we ate, we drove down to the Illinois River in Siloam Springs. It was really pretty. It felt like a perfect night. I got to see not only the beauty in people, but enjoy the beauty of the outdoors too.

My heart is full!

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