Monday, February 05, 2007

" I feel stretched to the depth of my being. Every aspect of my life...my spirit, my body, my soul, have been challenged to an extent I have never known. God has been my strength through this past week, my first week at Salem. Otherwise, I would not have made it through. It's funny... I left family, friends, home... and entered into strangers, loneliness, oppression, violence- yet I feel peace: "the peace that passes all understanding". That's how I know I am supposed to be here.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced my first shift- the spiritual attacks, the emotional attacks, and the physical exhaustion. I know now why they told me it would be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But there are already kids, like J. and C., that have made it worth it. Father, just use me , strengthen me, and prepare me for what is ahead."


- This was a journal entry that I wrote after my first week at Salem . My first role there was as a Teaching Parent, where I basically lived there 5 days at a time with my partner, in rotation with another set of Teaching Parents. I had this ideal in my head that I would just come in and love on the children and befriend them, and they would soak everything up and receive it and appreciate it. Before you enter this type of work, you think "poor kids, they have been abused, neglected..they will just respond to any amount of affection you give them". WRONG!!! Example of one of my first interactions: The girls' bathroom had run out of toilet paper...so a 10 year old resident walked up to me and proclaimed, "Go get me some toilet paper, B**ch!" Now that is a name I had never been called before (not to my face, anyway). Needless to say, I didn't go get her the toilet paper and told her I wouldn't until she asked respectfully. She refused and got so angry that she went around banging kitchen cabinet doors, throwing chairs, cursing, etc. and ended up having to be physically restrained by another houseparent. I was in shock.... and many more of these encounters ensued, until I was thoroughly "tested" by the children to see what I was made of. Apparently, there have been staff that came in and walked out a couple of days later, with bags packed.

Abuse, neglect, and abandonment lead to severe emotional and behavioral problems in most children. They don't trust adults. The very people that should love them and protect them have harmed them and turned their back on them. For a lot of the kids at Salem, the abuse and neglect started very early in their life and they never really had an "attachment" figure, or someone they bonded with during their formative years. So you have to prove yourself to them before you will get even an "inkling" of respect or affection. I was told to go in as tough as nails, something that didn't come naturally to me...but I did it anyway. At the end of my first shift, the same 10 year old girl came up to me and said, "I don't want you to leave...will you come back?"

"Yes, I will"....... and I did.

18 comments:

Elise said...

Oh, more, more! I am so enjoying reading about this aspect of *you*!
Thank you for sharing.

kenju said...

How sad, that children have to suffer this kind of damage. How wonderful, that there are people like you to step in and change their world.

Anna said...

Wow, I am sure that was quite an experience for you.

I can't imagine some of the horrors that kids face on a daily basis. I am sure that God was not only using you their to further His kingdom but that He was molding you in all the right places because of His passion for you.

Thanks for all your prayers and comments for me on my blog...it means a lot!

Tom Atkins said...

Thank you so much for these glimpses into your life. Often you have referred to all this, but the more in-depth sharing has created a deeper understanding and affinity for your spirit.

Tom

susan said...

Wow, what an experience! Just a tad different from waiting on tables? Well, some of those patrons can be pretty demanding (yankees hehe).

It sounds like you really loved what you were doing, and were sent there for a purpose. I imagine both you and the kids gained from your being there.

Joel and Jaime said...

Oh, I thought that last picture looked rather familiar, like maybe it was a place I had seen before...:) Enjoying your posts!

bluemountainmama said...

thank you all for your comments! and, yes, to susan and anna....the children had just as big of an influence on me as I on them, in different ways. God definitaly changed me through my time there, also.

kaliblue said...

Do you still Teach?. I can relate to the kids. I'm glad you got to experience and hopefully help change a few, if not all the kids you came in contact with :-). "They who scream the loudest are the most scared".

Andrea said...

What an experience. I liked the way you said you experienced "peace" in the non-peaceful situation.
Wonderful you stuck it out.

bluemountainmama said...

kaliblue- i went back to being a teaching assistant at the school there part-time when my son was 2 1/2 and taught until we moved a year and a half ago.

Christianne said...

What an amazing story. I'm with Elise -- I want to hear more! Are you going to share more snapshots of this life with us?

By the way, I was moved by the part of your journal entry that said you "entered into strangers." What a vivid image.

bluemountainmama said...

christianne- i will continue to post about my experiences as the memories come and i can express them the in the right way.... it will be sporadic i'm sure, as that tends to be how my train of thoughts go....

Anna said...

OK, look at YOUR comments!! :) I just commented back to Sir Laughsalot hoping that he would read it!
We are ready anytime!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

So very inspiring to read this...It is ruly criminal that some people give birth to babbies they are either comletely unprepared to take care of, or worse, abuse them because most likely they were abused...! How wonderful that you were able to bring some trust to some of these children, and to have the strength to go through the bath of fire to get to the place where a child says "will you come back"...you are to be commended!

colleen said...

Very challenging indeede. I've seen some serious acting out behavior in the world of foster care for those with developmental and mental disablities too. We took trainings on how to not escalate it and how to protect ourselves. Usually things got better once they got in a postive environment and we're being listened to.

Christianne said...

I love how you want to be able to express them in the right way. Sometimes I've found I can get so pregnant with an idea that feels so round and substantial and yet not ready to be birthed because it's still gestating. Take your time, in order to do those memories justice and offer them with humble respect.

photowannabe said...

There is a peace that only the Lord can give. I think its interesting that the name of the place is Salem or peace. Beautiful thoughts and lovely pictures.

Jenny said...

What an amazing place. I think being a mother is tough, but the job you had is about as tough as it gets. I had no idea any sort of place like this existed. So glad that it does and that there are folks like you willing to do such an important job.