As I have sojourned through seven decades of life, I have been in awe of the individuals who have been gifted with skills and abilities so beyond the norm. There are musicians, scientists, athletes, writers, artists; people in all walks of life who have a Special Calling to bless humanity with their unique gift. The contributions of the uniquely gifted make life rich, more meaningful and better for everyone. But, let’s not forget – each one of us has unique gifts and skills to contribute to the grand scope of life.
April is our national “Child Abuse Prevention” (CAP) month. This is truly a meritorious focus since children are our most valuable resource. When our children grow up Safe and Healthy, there is an 85% chance that they will become positive contributors to society, and not consumers of public resources. Let’s face it, child abuse and neglect is unconscionable and produces severe damage through the trauma impact on the children who’ve been victimized.
Lottie didn’t have a typical childhood. Growing up with her dad who lived with a medical condition that left him physically challenged meant that Lottie had to carry more of the caregiving duties because he wasn’t able. Everything in Lottie's life took a backseat to her dad's condition and needs, including school and her own social development. Eventually her dad’s condition worsened and he was moved into a full-time care facility. Without any family, Lottie was placed into foster care at the age of 14.
“There is a feeling I’ve been getting lately and I want to tell you about it. I don’t know what it’s called, but I think you will because I know you and you know everything.” Hannah abruptly interrupted our budgeting chat, which had grown a bit complicated. In all honesty, I think we both needed a little break from that business.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I speak about the ‘Power of One,’ I am not referring to the book written by Bryce Courtenay or the movie based on it. I am referring to the profound impact one individual can make that can reverberate exponentially to the benefit of many. This is not some catchy philosophy; it is a fact of nature. When I plant one green bean seed I yield dozens of green bean pods which produce hundreds of seeds. So too, when one plants a seed of care, compassion, concern, hope or encouragement, the same potential for fruition exists.
There have been times in my life when I didn’t have toilet paper. I usually had a roof over my head (even if it was a carroof), but we didn’t always have finished floors. Did you know that the term “dirt poor” is an Americanism from the 1930s referring to someone living in a house that has a dirt floor? In the United States in the 1990s, I was dirt poor, fleeing from one terrifying temporary non-home to another. Being dirt poor is not just a third world condition, it’s not just a Great Depression Era throw-back, and it doesn’t exclude any race.
At 12, twins, Kyle and Nick, were very different. Kyle was quick to react—verbally and physically—without much regard for others. While Nick, painfully shy, often let Kyle do all the talking (and reacting) for him. The boys had been placed in Emergency Shelter Care when it was discovered that their parents were unable to provide them with a safe and stable home. In care, both boys displayed the trauma that they experienced through their behaviors--Kyle became more aggressive and Nick withdrew almost completely.
I’m sure we’ve all heard a lot of different words to describe foster parents and/or foster parenting. Hopefully phrases such as, “hearts of gold” and “selfless heroes” outnumber the negative and inaccurate sentiments that too often plague this noble and challenging life choice many (but not enough) make.
Sadly, some kids just get dealt a bad hand in life, through no fault of their own. Clay was one of those kids. He first ended up in foster care when his parents were arrested for using and selling drugs. At the time, Clay’s aunt and uncle stepped forward to give five year old Clay a home. But after many years with the family, Clay’s uncle was arrested for domestic violence and his aunt, severely traumatized, could no longer care for Clay. Now 15, Clay was again placed into foster care for his safety.