A few years ago Ben and I were walking down the sidewalk in front of our house when the cutest little brown-haired boy came out of nowhere and ran up to Ben, arms wide open and smiling. He must have been about three years old, all bouncy and wiggly. Not knowing who this boy was or where he came from, Ben did what I think any dad would do in this situation. He scooped him up and gave him a giant hug. He carried him to the lady who was clearly trying to get him to come back to her. Ben put the boy down and, as he ran off to play, we began talking to this woman.
And this is the conversation that changed our life.
She was a foster mom, she said. She had just agreed to take this small boy and his one year old sister. The baby sister would be coming later because she was currently in the hospital being treated for head injuries sustained by abuse from their previous foster parents. She said she tried to help the little boy brush his teeth that morning and he looked at her in fear and said “please don’t choke me!”
That’s when Ben and I went inside our safe little house with our safe and happy little children, and we both cried. Ben’s first response was “I’ll take them!” and I knew he meant it. Suddenly we both felt the devastating, unbearable weight of the world and the children in it. The ones who have nowhere safe to lay their head, who worry about their hungry tummies or their next punishment, who desperately need comfort and find none. Of course we had heard these stories before on the news, just like everyone, but never had we been presented with an actual child with actual needs which we were absolutely capable of meeting–a bed, food, safety, love.
So we started talking about “what ifs.” What if we used our extra bed for foster kids? What if we could become a guaranteed safe place for whatever children pass through our home? What if, no matter what kind of hell these babies have been through, we can work to make the time they spend with us a positive moment in their lives, for however long that happens to be? Eventually, somewhere in those two years of talking about it, the language moved from “what if” to “when.”
This week we finished our last little bit of training and are officially ready and open for business, and I can honestly say we have no idea what we are doing. We are not perfect people or perfect parents. We may have very little to offer a child who is grieving the loss of everything they know, perhaps only a place to stay and some food, maybe a smile or two and free hugs for a short amount of time. I have no idea how this will go or how our hearts will fare, but I do know, as I write this, there are children sleeping on CPS office floors because there aren’t enough foster families to take them. I do know we have a warm bed just sitting in our house gathering dust and that seems crazy and unacceptable to me. We won’t stand by anymore without extending our hands. We are finally looking up from the news on our screens and stepping outside into the village where children are patiently doing without what we have in plenty. From now on we will not stand by feeling powerless against the weight of this world. We will be doing our level best to make it a tiny bit lighter, one kid at a time.
…so now we wait…