Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just One Tiny Shoe.

Oh how I wish it was just one child who lived in poverty, or was addicted to drugs, or couldn't bear to go home to an abusive parent.

But sadly, our society - my own community - is filled with them.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to join a local agency's special event to serve families in great need by providing free hygiene products, clothes, and social services-type assistance all under one roof. I brought my daughter along and we had a fun time fitting children with shoes and clothes. We did discover the joy that comes from helping people, but we also got a glimpse of a truly different world.

As I had been doing all day, I approached a child to slip off her shoe in order to find out her size (more often than not, the parents had no idea what size shoe their child wore). I held back a gasp as I turned to my daughter and told her to grab shoes off the rack that were a whole two sizes bigger. This little girl's feet were being squeezed into shoes much too small for her. I rubbed her squished little toes as we strapped on an adorable pair of white sandals. You would have thought I'd handed her a tiara the way she lit up. We also found some sneakers in her size and I told her to wear them home. I struggled to avoid taking the tiny shoes and hide them so they would never be forced on her feet again!

Shoes that fit. It's a simple thing. But a rarity amidst kids who are not even sure where they'll find their next meal.

So I went back today to this agency because I want to do more. I showed up for a prayer meeting where the director gave us her "top 10 list" of requests. Each story worse than the one before.
A teen desperate for acceptance, only to be dragged down by despicable insults and lies on social media.

A 14-year-old girl gone missing, possibly out on the streets or shacked up with a much older man.

A drug addict finding ways to abuse even as she's in a treatment center...and pushing her "secret" on others fighting to stay sober.

Two kids under age 10 missing since their mother was taken away by the authorities a few days ago.

These kids are fighting for survival while mine fight for the last bowl of sugary cereal. The contrast is gut-wrenching.
I was told a story of a young girl who came to a club meeting, and while stringing colored beads onto a string, she said, "Black, blue, black, blue...that's the color of my Mommy." ...and then blushed as she realized what she just admitted out loud for all to hear.

I cannot meet these people or hear these stories and just hope they get their lives on track someday.  Sure, I could plop back into life as usual and just be thankful for what I have. But that's like walking away from the scene of a tragic accident hoping everybody gets out okay.

It's absurd.

So I'm going to dive in again later this week and do what I can to give kids the chance to...

...know love.

...know safety.

...and know hope.

Because every child should know these things.

It shouldn't have taken a tiny shoe to remind me of it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How I discovered my kids don't need me after all.

News flash: I'm not nearly as needed as I thought I was.

Well, some in this house may debate me on that, but I discovered my children truly can survive on their own when necessary.

Like when I am nearly comatose in bed for an entire day from influenza.

A couple weeks ago, I crawled into bed on a Saturday night not convinced I would be a functioning human being by morning. Turns out, I was right.

Since my husband was working and wouldn't be home until roughly 6pm, it meant I was still responsible for three young children. That whole, "Moms aren't allowed to be sick" thing is painfully true.

But I was. There was no picking myself up and powering through. I was down for the count. Body aches, fever, throbbing headache, coughing, congestion, sniffling, sore throat...yes, I sound like a cold medicine commercial. I really had every imaginable symptom. I didn't think it was possible.

And the EXHAUSTION. As if I had been manually plowing fields all night long. I was throwing up the white flag but the universe was merciless.

Meanwhile, I can decipher enough information coming from downstairs to realize my children are watching television in mass quantities with bowls of cereal to match. Around 2pm, I muster up enough energy to get up and stumble downstairs to check on the state of the place.

It isn't pretty.

The children have polished off two boxes of cereal, leaving a trail of crumbs and chunks from the kitchen to the family room. This includes much of it crushed and mashed into all couch crevices and cushions. The milk jug has been abandoned on the counter and something wet was splashed across the kitchen floor. I look up to see my three cherubs glued to their sixth hour of television.

Annoyed and disappointed, I ask, "Would you ever turn that thing off if I didn't tell you to?" They all turn around to face me and immediately begin to complain that there is nothing else to do...I should get out of bed and feed them...they had to take care of themselves and it's so unfair...and on and on.

As I put the now-disgusting-room-temperature milk back in the refrigerator, I motion to them to get the vacuum and start cleaning up. I also insist the television be turned off. Indefinitely.

Once the place looks a little less like Red Cross could show up at any moment, I send them to the playroom to actually be children - you know, the little people that have imaginations and actually enjoy a room full of toys? They gripe and complain as I mosey back up to my bed. At this point, my body obviously can only maintain an upright position for 6 minutes.

I vow to only arise for a catastrophe.

It's not long - or at least it doesn't seem long because I'm in and out of consciousness - when the first catastrophe presents itself. My 5-year-old hurries up the stairs in a bit of a panic.

"Mom. MOM. You have to wake up and help me. This is bad. This is real bad."

I open one eye.

"I have gum in my hair," he says.

I close my eye and mutter, "Lord, have mercy."

I manage to get up and locate the Goo Gone under the kitchen sink. Within seconds, the gum is out and my little boy is convinced I'm a genius. He runs off to play.

Or, rather, join the fray.

Apparently 'play' is going to mean 'torture and torment siblings' today. I no sooner get the covers pulled over my body when my screaming, fighting children have brought their wild animal antics into my room.

I am dangerously indifferent, so I call their father. He asks me to put our oldest on the phone and shortly thereafter, with much whining and complaining mind you, all three are headed outside to run off their energy - Dad's orders.

As soon as the last grumbling child is out the door, my muscles relax again and I drift into the sleep I desperately crave.

But I'm abruptly awakened to clomping booted feet on my bedroom floor.

Again, the little one has come to disturb the beast.

I only make out about every third word. Something about "Bad." "Caleb." "Roof." "Fell."

I shake myself awake to get more detail.

"Caleb used a chair to reach an icicle off the garage roof and he slipped and fell on his butt," he informs me. "He's crying and he needs you."

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the key word in that statement to me was "butt" because I quit trying to shimmy out of bed and instead asked, "You said he fell on his butt?"


"Good. He'll be fine. That's padded." (I realize this puts me no longer in the running for mother-of-the-year, but since I feel near death, I'm not convinced I would be alive to accept the award anyway.)

I then sent the little reporter back outside and my head hit the pillow.

I'll admit at that moment I was so weak I was searching for any reason to avoid having to throw on a coat and boots to head outdoors. Had he fallen on an arm or leg, perhaps I would have experienced greater alarm, but I figured a bump on the hind end wouldn't kill him.

I was right because he apparently recovered just fine. I never heard another word about it. In fact, I can't even be sure it wasn't all a hallucination. The illness was clearly taking over.

Fortunately, my husband eventually came home. And fed them. And let me sleep in peace. Hal. le. lu. jah.

The next morning I awoke to numerous hand-written Get Well notes from my children. I suppose they truly did feel bad that I was sick, but they also fully expected me to bounce back like a cartoon character and serve them breakfast.

What they didn't realize was that NOW I knew what they were capable of! So by the time I was finally able to resume most of my duties in the household, I determined that I do waaaaaay too much for my kids. They somehow found sustenance while I was out of commission, so they will now step. it. up.

Case in point:  when my 10-year-old asked for a glass of milk a few mornings later, I handed her a glass and pushed the milk jug toward her.

She got my point. And we all learned a valuable lesson from my brush with death. (Yeah, I'm gonna be dramatic here. I am not rational when sick.) 

There are capable hands in this house, and they don't just belong to Mom.