To The Daily Sun,
Children who have been neglected or abused bring happiness and optimism into my life. Now that may sound a little strange or weird, but then most of the children I work with have often described me in that fashion, so let me explain. Much of the work I do involves bringing children to visit their parents and then supervising those visits because their parents are in the process of attempting to reunify with them. As you may have already surmised, those parents are fighting the ravages of drug addiction.It is an uphill battle on so very many levels and that is a topic for another day.
I have the opportunity to work with and get to know the children of those parents. Yes, it is physically and emotionally draining to be with those boys and girls while they are visiting with their parents. Parents who struggle to make that full commitment to change their lives and make better choices for themselves, in order to get their children back.
A colleague of mine recently asked me how I keep myself from getting emotionally burnt out from this work. I told her that I derive pleasure from the challenges of developing relationships with the birth parents, foster parents and extended family members. However, as Thanksgiving approaches, I found myself pondering that question more deeply. I came to realize that it is much more than that. Those who know me, know that I love being with children, which is why I am still involved in direct care at my advanced age.
In thinking of what I am thankful for this year, one of the things I am most thankful for is an awe inspiring opportunity. The opportunity to witness the resilience, energy and zest for life that exists within these children, in spite of the disappointment, loss and trauma that they have experienced in their young lives.
Three brothers running around a playground blowing bubbles and demanding that I chase them while laughing and teasing me. The perfect distraction while we wait for their mother to show up, late again for the visit. Two sisters laughing and singing Christmas carols with me while I drive them back to their grandmother's home where they live. The perfect distraction after visiting with their mother who was just injured in a car accident and had to move yet again, due to her homeless dilemma. A young girl showing off her reading skills to me at the local library, then demanding that I do the "underdog" while she is on the swing, and teasing me about being her pretend grandfather, all while flashing that devilish twinkle in her eye. The perfect distraction for a visit when her mother failed to show and another when her mother moved far away, necessitating the suspension of visits.
And lastly, a 10-year-old boy who I worked with for a year and a half. He beat me like a drum at multiplication war. He mercilessly scored goals on me as I guarded the soccer goal. He demanded that I give him the heave-ho while swimming at a local pool. His smile and laugh so infectious that I was never able to contain my glee whenever it appeared.The perfect distraction for his frustration at his mother not being able to complete the goals of reunification. Thankfully, he was able to reunite with his biological father after many years of separation.
Despite the heartache that has been their lot in life, all of them are still able to find the joy in life. They have been able to find a way to trust again, summoning the courage to believe that others will take care of them, love them and keep them safe. I thank God for those amazing foster parents who give their hearts and souls to care for these children. I thank God for a wonderful grandmother who has made the enormous sacrifice of taking in four grandchildren, all while being a single parent and running her own business. I'm guessing that she doesn't think it is much of a sacrifice, as she watches her four granddaughters grow and thrive under her care.
I admire and respect these parents so very much. I have been so privileged and blessed to be a small part of these children's lives. So, how is it that I have not become emotionally burnt out, dealing with such heartbreaking situations on a daily basis? I am convinced it is the inspiration and motivation that I derive from these wonderful children. It is indeed adult/child therapy for this ole curmudgeon that keeps me young and alive and reinvigorated.
There is a Chinese proverb that states, "A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark." I'd like to think that I have left my mark on them. A mark that reminds them they have worth, because they know I cherish every second I get to be with them. Anyway, just being able to share time with them is one of the things I am most grateful for on this Thanksgiving of 2016.