Thursday, November 15, 2007

dirty, pretty things......

"Miss Amy.... I want to f*** you up the ass", a nine-year old student told me, while I was teaching at the Salem School. This is what he thought he should say to let me know he liked me. T-man, as I affectionately referred to him, had been homeless, eating out of dumpsters. I dared not think about what he had seen, heard, or had happen to him, to make him think that's how you show people affection.

*Denise's record came before she did. We sat at the table reviewing her history in anticipation of her arrival to the residential program. I was a Teaching Parent at the time.... my first role at Salem, and she would be in my house. Denise was nine, also, and had never been able to stay in a placement for more than a couple of months because of her out-of-control behaviors. She had set her hair on fire, tried to strangle herself, and attacked her caregivers. The dolled up little girl that walked in, with her black mary janes, pink purse, and bright red lipstick , belied the disturbed little child underneath. She had no 'honeymoon' period, as most children did... where their behaviors didn't emerge for a couple of weeks. Denise launched full-scale warfare almost as soon as she entered the room. I knew I was in for a long summer.....

So what makes a 9 year old girl try to commit suicide, and burn every bridge that someone puts out for her? In Denise's case, she was born to a crack addict, and was left alone, lying in her crib for days at a time, wallowing in her feces, crying at the top of her little infant lungs for food. Her mother would allow men to come in and molest baby Denise in exchange for drugs. As a toddler, she would eat lead paint chips... the only thing she could find. Then when her situation was discovered, she was placed in a foster home, where she was abused again. Then on to home after home after home.... and finally to a mental health institution before coming to Salem.

T-man and Denise are just a few of the thousands, if not millions of children living a daily nightmare. I tend to focus a lot on beauty and peace on my blog... But I am also painfully aware that the world isn't a beautiful place in a lot of ways. It can be a dark, ugly, evil place. Maybe because I've seen the darkness, I can appreciate the light and beauty that much more.

As we approach the holiday season, a lot of us will relish the comforts of home, family, and abundance. That is all well and good.... I will be doing the same. But let us not forget those who don't have the luxury of a home-cooked meal, a mother's hand to hold, gifts to open, or a safe place to rest their head. I believe strongly that we were not put on this earth just to be comfortable, consume resources, and take up space. There is a needy world out there... a dark world. A world that needs people to come and shine some light into its darkness.

Denise was able to stay at Salem for 2 years before being placed back in her county. I not only was her Teaching Parent that summer, but she was placed in the class where I would be a Teaching Assistant in the fall. I was in the trenches with her for 2 years.... fighting alongside the other staff for her life. And I had the privilege of slowly, but surely, seeing LIFE.... a child emerge from the shell. After months of aggression, defiance, and violence on her part, I got to see her first real tear, when she gave her first sincere apology for hurting someone. I saw the film of apathy come off her eyes. I saw her bond for the first time in years.... first with our classroom dog, then with a fellow student, then with us, her teachers.... baby steps. I got to hold her and sing her to sleep at night. But through it all, I didn't feel that I was doing her a favor..... IN fact, I felt like I was the lucky one...to see this miracle, as she was the bravest little girl I had ever met, to open herself up to love after the nightmare of her former existence.

Denise and T-man will probably never be truly functioning members of society. T-man is now living with relatives. Denise is now 18 and in an independent living facility for young adults. She still calls me on the holidays and wants to know what I am going to send her. She tells me she loves me and misses me. And those are precious words in my ear, because I know she means it in the most sincere way she can.

This season, let us be beacons of light in the dark places in our communities. When we pray and Give Thanks, let us not forget to pray and petition on behalf of those who don't have a voice. Let us not forget those outside our comfortable homes, whether it be the lonely widow or widower, an abused child, a nursing home resident, or even a stray dog. Yes, let us be Thankful, but not forgetful......

(*name changed for privacy)

20 comments:

Christianne said...

Oh my gosh, Blue. The stories of these two touched me so deeply. Thank you for sharing how they grew and also where they are right now.

You have an amazing ability to tell these stories in a way that makes people want to move, to take action. I really think you should be writing letters on behalf of places like this, perhaps to help them raise money. If they even need to do that kind of thing.

photowannabe said...

Blue, this touches me deeply. I am just amazed at how many hurting children there are out there that just fall between the tracks. One could get so discouraged. Salem and the teacher/helpers there are a glimmer of hope.
All of us need to be lights in the very dark places in our world.
Thanks for the stirring post.

Lindah said...

Thank you for your touching, thought provoking post. We see the drug children here and their mamas who are so addicted not only to substance but to the wrong use of their bodies. And sometimes their children's bodies. It breaks our hearts. Such a counterpoint to the tinsel and jolly. As you said, we are here to be beacons of Light to our dark communities. We have been given so much. So much to be thankful for.
Bless you,
Linda H

bluemountainmama said...

lindah- do you have a blog? i don't see a link for one on your profile? i take it from a previous comment that you used to live in the mountains... where?

Beth said...

I am so moved by this post, Blue. You were blessed to be able to make a difference in these children's lives and to show them the love that they so desparately needed. I pray that we all may find a way to be a light for someone who needs it and to show love to the unloved.

dancing dragon said...

Hi bluemountainmama,

I've been lurking for a while ever since I clicked your name off of mybloglog from laradavidphotos, and I'm glad your name was interesting enough that I clicked on it. First I was moved by your writing on mountaintop removal, and because of that I sent an e-mail to my representative. I just wish it would make a difference. Then I noticed all of the beautiful pictures and beautiful colors, a sort that I don't get to see where I live. I also like your writing on Christianity. This post is written so well and reminds us of things that we can care about and do for others.

bluemountainmama said...

dancing dragon- thanks for 'dancing' out of the shadows. :) thank you very much. i'm so glad to hear you took action on my MTR posts... very encouring to know that people i don't even know about are helping!

christianne- thanks for the encouraging words. yes, places like salem can always use funding. they have a big annual fundraiser every year. because they are a christian organization, they don't get public funding and rely on private donations. the state does have to pay for a child's residency there if it is a state referral, though.... and many are. something to consider.... :)

kirsten said...

Oh, Blue. I too am moved by these stories. Where some might just see an unruly child, a future menace, you saw their wounds so clearly. Thank you for being such a one who can love, pour herself out for ones such as these.

Thank you for sharing from so deep within your heart.

brandy said...

Thank you for sharing this story. It's so easy to forget others, this reminds us of the abundant love we all have to share.

Moi said...

whatever i write here will seem so small, Blue.....it's great to come to know you slowly and surely....I really wish your T-man and Denise and all the other children of this world a happy future.....I strongly believe that every child deserves a happy, loving childhood and if his/her biological parents cant provide it for him/her.....we all should strive to in whatever way we can.......u are my light, Blue :)

bluemountainmama said...

moi.. i know your heart beats the same as mine and that one day God will provide you a channel for all that compassion in your heart. but really it's the small things for others....that's where we must start. i love the quote in all your e-mails by the way..... i have meant to tell you that.

Shantanu said...

This is probably the saddest thing to see and deal with: the plight of so many children in our world. We have a huge problem in India as well, and mostly due to extreme poverty. While we have made a lot of progress during the last decade, we have a long way to go...thankfully, drugs aren't a major issue in India (yet!). Thanks for sharing these stories.

Ash said...

Sad and touching indeed!

Gardener Greg said...

Very sad story but unfortunatly very true and more common that we would like to think. It is easy for the lucky ones to put up that wall and forget about the once in the dark. I will do all I can to bring someone into the light whenever I can. Thanks for the reminder.

backpakker said...

i dont know what to say..such tragic stories and yet there is so much of courage ..i am really moved..thanks for sharing and reminding

ronbailey said...

Wow - just wow. I'm speechless...

YourFireAnt said...

Big thanks for this post. Just the thing for Thanksgiving day, and I'm on my way over to have supper with my family, so the walk will be filled with gratutude.

Bless you.

Teresa

colleen said...

It's so good to know we can make a difference in someone's life, even a small difference matters, and that you accepted Denise as she was and gave room for her humanity to come forth.

Jo said...

Your story really does make the reader want to wrap their arms around Denise and T-man and comfort them... thankfully God brought you into their lives and rescued them through you. The way you penned the story is remarkable, and unforgettable. Thank you for reminding me to take my eyes off of myself, Blue.
- Jo
http://followtheroadlesstraveled.blogspot.com

Mimi said...

I feel like I just got punched in the stomach with the reality many kids deal with. It is horrific. Thank you for trying to help.

Mimi