07 January 2015

organizing in the middle of heartbreak

There is this weird twisty part of me that always comes out when I walk out of the foster care office.  One part that wants to just dismiss it and maybe quit coming, another part that wants to have a good cry, and still another part that wants to be angry.

The story often changes, but in a way its always the same.

Yesterday, I went to get some work done, we had made a lot of progress getting things back in order after the mess before Christmas but there were still some things that needed shifted around. I brought a couple clothing rods, Brad's drill, a screwdriver and some high hopes.  I met a friend in the lobby and we headed up to the 5th floor.  The receptionist mentioned that a child had found a toy to play with earlier from the closet.  Its always fun to hear about that sort of thing.

As we discussed where to start one of the caseworkers came by.  She told me about a sibling set that came into care before New Year's.  And they still hadn't found a home for all of them.  They were taking turns sleeping at already-full foster homes.  Almost a week.  Bouncing around from place-to-place after being taken from your only familiar place.  Can you even imagine?  The caseworker asked me to pray hard.  She told me of another incident that was a first in her 21 years, a child had to sleep in a hotel overnight instead of a home.


Organizing donations seems so meaningless after a conversation like that.  Making shelves neat + orderly while families are split wide open + children are left in the mess, seems senseless. It feels silly almost.

But our time was short, so we got to work. My friend began the inventory while I figured out how to add clothing rods to our new tall shelves.  {An idea that another friend messaged to me via Pinterest a few months ago!} I started measuring for the holes I would need to drill when the receptionist walked in with a little dude, she explained that he was bored with the toy he had chosen earlier and asked if he could pick another.  "Of course he can!" I replied excitedly, with maybe too much giddiness in my voice.    I immediately realized he was one of the sibling set we had just talked about and my heart sunk.  He was spending his day here because he wasn't old enough to go to school like his sibling had.  All day at the government office.  He wouldn't look at me, even after the receptionist tried to have him tell me "thank you." He just kept his head down, eyes to the ground.  I put my pencil down and squatted down to try and make eye contact for a minute.  I told him I hoped he liked the puzzle he picked out. He didn't even shrug.

They walked out and my friend and I chatted briefly about how hard it must be for him.  The air felt heavy as we got back to work.  Without much more conversation, she finished the inventory, while I hung the clothing rods.  As we worked,  I could hear snippets of conversation from the receptionist's desk.  It all felt like too much. We had to unpack the shelves and move hanging clothes, then re-adjust the items on the shelves. The rest of our work was more-or-less a race against the clock to get done before it was time to pick the little guys up from Mom's Morning Out.

We got it done, and I was able to snap a picture of our progress.  It felt good to have something to celebrate after the heaviness of the morning.

I carried around the image of that little boy all day -- his head low, his eyes lower.  When I took this picture of my guys at nap, I couldn't help but wonder if that little dude had a place to nap.

Later I replayed a conversation I had Sunday with a couple in the coffee shop.  We were talking about foster care and some of the state limits on children per bedroom, etc.  The husband said they had room but his wife couldn't do it because it would be too hard to give the kids back.  I tried to acknowledge her feelings while also mentioning that its important to think about what you are giving a child.  She added that she couldn't do it with a dog, let alone a child.  And the conversation ended there.

And I get it.  I so get it.

But there are children that are desperate for a safe place to stay.  Children that stay in different homes each night waiting for a place to go. And there are homes with rooms that sit empty -- empty because it would be too hard for the adults. No matter how earnestly I try, I can't get get past this without a good bawl-fest.

Our churches could change this.  We can change this.

I know its not that simple.  I know the system is a mess.  I know that even if that couple from church decided today that they wanted to foster a child it would be months {MONTHS!} before they could open up their empty rooms. I know all that.

But I also know I saw that little boy with his head hanging low.  And its my job to tell his story.  And pray.  And beg you to pray too.

His story is unfolding all across our country.  And across our country churches are full of folks with empty rooms in their homes.

Y'all we can change this.  So I'll keep going back there.  And I won't let anger or apathy take root, and I'll beg God to keep my heart tender.

I know some of you want to do something today.  You'll pray but you also want to act.  One small thing is helping fill our gaps in the clothing closet.  Here is the most recent list of clothing needs.

We take new clothing as well as shoes, socks, undergarments, diapers, and toiletries. I am always happy to answer any questions you have.  If there is something you might like to donate that I didn't list, ask - it might be just want someone needs!

You might want to do even more.  I'd love to hear about it.

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