Spring and finding our wings

Today’s view from the window shows some signs of new life as spring is finally showing itself. The flowers are growing and the blossoms on the apple and pear trees have finally come out from their hidden cocoons.  Birds seem to sing that much louder and the sunshine seems that much brighter.  While the past few weeks have been hard, spring is a great reminder that there is something good in the wind.

Sometimes life mimics nature so very much that we can certainly learn more from Mother Nature’s story. This is especially true when looking at the way we poor human beings must think.  Sometimes we too find ourselves nestled away in a cocoon hiding from those harsh winters, a world where when the wind blows our egos and our minds may take a beating at the hands of the frightful winter.

I think of the abuse that I see every day, the children who are told that they are nothing, that they don’t deserve to live and how they are made to feel.  How can we ever expect them to spread their wings as beautiful butterflies if we do our very best to tell them that they are only worthy of being an unsightly caterpillar?

These children still smile, they can still laugh and they can still become what they were meant to be, as long as someone tells them that they belong, that they are destined for a beautiful life on wings and in the wind.  Someone still has to believe in them and smile at them and make them warm and welcome.butterfly and child

When I walk down the halls, I look not at the ones who readily smile at me but for the ones who try to hide. The ones who do their very best to blend into the walls and not attract attention. The ones who are afraid of everyone and everything.  Those are the ones that I see through the window today. These are my little angels and it is these wonderful people who I dedicate who I am every day to protecting.  I will never stop smiling at them, telling them that they have something special and reminding them that I believe in them.

I will see them not for who they are, but for who they could be. I will share with them my thoughts not about where they sit today but where they will stand someday. Like a fortune-teller who carefully hides their secret, my crystal ball shows only that I believe that they can be whatever it is that their heart desires and so much more.  My looking-glass is a mirror into their soul and it can only show the brightest light that shines within all of them.

Sometimes the hardest part of trying to be a beacon and guiding light for those in need is that you have to withstand the perilous pounding of the dangerous seas. It is never easy but it is always worthwhile.

When they fall and no one can catch them

Last night I watched out the window as the rain fell against the panes. My eyes would blink as the brightness filled the sky before the rumble slowly made its way across the valley.  I didn’t hear it though, I didn’t feel it.  My mind was fifteen miles away in a cold windowless room.  My mind was sitting with a seventeen year old who will not see the rain for many years.

When I find out that a student is arrested, I usually know them and am usually not surprised.  Sadly I know that these poor kids live a life of “lack.” They lack good role models at home, they lack someone to teach them values, they lack a way to adjust their moral compass.  I am rarely surprised.

When they told me his name, I was surprised.  He was a “good” kid. Did well in school, seemed focused and tried to avoid the drama that has become high school.  He is seventeen.  Last month he walked up to another kid in our city, stood behind him and pulled a gun from his pocket before ending the other child’s life in cold blood.

prison

My mind cannot comprehend this one. How the vision of the quiet student can suddenly be ripped away by the sight of a cold blooded murderer.  What happened to make him into this? He wasn’t born to be a stone killer, what drove him to end two lives that day? Not only his victim, but his own life ceased. All of the opportunity, all of the possibility and all of the hope are gone now.

He doesn’t have a window. He cannot even stare out to see what the outside world looks like. I wonder if he even knows that it is raining or can hear the thunder. I wonder if he cares any longer. I wonder who mourns for him. I know that I do, not for the murderer, but the innocent little boy that he once was.

Shadows and sunlight

Have you ever watched the grass on a cloudy day and seen the way the shadows glide quietly across as the clouds block the sun’s rays?  Have you ever been looking at the sun and as soon as the shadow comes over you, you feel the chill as the air suddenly changes?  Darkness falls and you look up, waiting to see when the sunlight will again reach out to touch your skin. I believe this is so very much like my life, sitting in the shadows and wanting, desperately needing, to feel the sunshine once again on my face.

That sunshine creates life and is our natural state of being. The skies are never permanently clouded over or plants wouldn’t survive, trees wouldn’t get the light needed to grow, animals couldn’t distinguish between day and night. That sunshine is meant to touch your face.  It is meant to make the flowers bloom.  It is meant to be the giver of life.

sunshine in clouds

Those clouds remind us that we sometimes need rain.  That storms will come and they will pass.  In the middle of the storm we may wonder if it will ever end, if we will survive the deluge.  Then it ends and we begin to heal.

My week has been filled with shadows and sunlight.  So many times I looked out the window needing to see the sun but only met with the darkness of the clouds shadow.  Somehow the sun knew my breaking point and just when I wanted to yell at the world out of my window, the clouds broke and the sunshine came gliding across, sliding up my body until I had to close my eyes. Just let myself feel its warmth. Feel enveloped in warmth.

My week was filled with life and death. Some gone, left far too early in their young life. Deserving to see the sun again but now shrouded in clouds forever.  The makeshift memorial to her on the corner does little to really embrace who she was.  The cries of friends and family will not bring her back.  They will live in the shadows until they are ready to see the sun again. I can just say to them that I am sorry, I can’t tell them that the sun will shine again because right now they wouldn’t believe me.  There are times that I don’t believe me.

I walk across the street, back into my car to look out again at life through the window.  As I pull away, the sunshine breaks through the clouds and reminds me.

When the tears no longer come…

What happens when the tears just cannot come any longer?

Sometimes I hold her at night and stare out of the window, hoping that they will come. Hoping that somehow the silence will be broken by my own whisper, my own quickened breath as I can feel the tension finally give way and the sting begins in my eyes.  I want them to come, I need them to come. I need to feel something, I want to feel human again.

I cannot see what I see and lose myself. I cannot sit there in the corner and watch this drama unfold upon these innocent creatures and not feel anymore.  Why can’t I cry? Please God remind me that it still works, that my heart hasn’t finally broken.

He was four years old. The blood was still visible on the back of his pants when they brought him to me.  I knew the older boy he had been with and I knew, deep down inside my tortured and fleeting soul, what had happened. I couldn’t ask for a minute. I watched this boy, his mother couldn’t stop crying. I asked what had happened.  I was right and I hate when I am right.

room with no windows

Normally I try to find the window, to look out and remind myself that there is more to it than this.  I try to remind myself that there is good in the world and that I can smile at someone, that there will be no strangers today but then when I meet this little one, he will share the most intimate details of his violation and we will not be strangers.

In fact he will forever be part of me now. I will carry his pain forever. I always do.

Today there is no window in the cold hospital room. Only a curtain meant to hide the victim’s shame. It does nothing to help anyone escape the pain.  From now on he will look suspiciously at everyone as if they all know what happened to him.

I almost fall back when he describes what happened. The boy who did it. The memory comes back to me like a painful bolt.  It was just four years ago when he sat before me and shared his pain. His mother had been addicted to drugs and had always been high. He and his brother were in the back of the car and watched as their mother ran down two of their classmates on the street. They heard the innocent children cry and scream and then stop suddenly as the car came to rest upon both of their small now lifeless bodies.  They watched as their mother jumped from the car and ran away. They never saw her again after that day. She still sits in jail.

I had to try to put his pieces back together.  I had to listen then and comfort him.  Try to explain why we had to handcuff his mother and why she went away.  He cried then but then, after a while his tears just stopped.  His face lost its emotion. Became cold and almost robotic.  I lost track of him for a while and today, today I must find him again.

The cries of the boy as the nurse looks at him rush me back to the here and now. I have to leave, I can’t breathe.  I run for now. I will find the other but not tonight. Tonight I need to lie in her arms and cry.

They never come. I fall asleep and they never came. She held me tightly before I slept and I know she would make them go away but they didn’t come. Is it possible to run out of tears? Is it possible that the last straw finally snapped and the now fragile frame of my once whole emotional self finally gave way?

I pray not. There will be others and I still need to care. I still need the tears to come just as a release. Maybe tomorrow they will come. Maybe tomorrow will be different.

 

Sharing your smile, showing you care.

Tonight as I look out my window I am greeted by the vision of so many other faces staring back at me. My thoughts fly into their rooms, behind their window and to what they are seeing and what they are hearing. Do they use their time at the window as a place to think about life or for them is it an escape from the boredom, fear or even terror that represents their own lives? If we could listen at their open window would we hear parents yelling in anger at each other? Would we hear the silence of loneliness and hopelessness?

faces on a trainHave you ever scanned the faces on the train? What are they thinking? What are they dreaming about? What is their existence like? Did they have supportive parents who spoiled them and told them every day how much they cared?

Normally in my work I encounter people who have been the victim of horrible acts of violence, usually physical or sexual, and are struggling to forget what they went through and try their best to become “normal” kids again.  Then once in a while we encounter some poor souls who have endured some of the worst possible emotional trauma. Last week it was one whose guardian had told her that she was no longer wanted and she should go to school and tell school that she wasn’t wanted any longer.

You may well notice that I said “guardian” as her parents were in jail or in drug rehab so she had been abandoned by them before she was seven and now at nine she had encountered yet another sense of loss.  Our wonderful state run family service agency arrived to tell the girl how it was her own fault for not following rules and that she deserved to go into foster care. He apologized to the school, saying that the child must be a handful.

This is when my thoughts from the window of him turned to throwing him physically out of one.  I calmly explained that she was actually a straight A student who had NEVER been in any type of trouble.  I then offered to take the child home to my family instead of foster care.  We are waiting to see if that occurs but my thoughts tonight go out to those nameless faces and whether some have felt that abandonment, that sense of loss.

How horrible it is for a child to feel unloved. While teachers and others may strongly remind them daily that they can be or do anything when they get older, they still come home and feel hopeless. Every baby is born with the need to be cared for, to be loved.  We never lose that need. The older we get the desire grows stronger.  We need to feel that another human being cares and values us.  How can we ever get them to believe in themselves? Society has told them that those closest to them should love them unconditionally.  Society has lied to them so they no longer trust those lies.

I hugged her before I left and hugged her again the next day when I stopped in to visit.  As I look out those windows, I want to reach out and hug them all. I want to say that I value them, even if no one else has.  I cannot solve all the problems but I can add a smile and a hug or a handshake to those who have not felt that warmth.

Share your love today. Look at the person in the car next to you on your dull commute.  Did they have a rough night alone or leave the house with no one showing them that they even cared? Give them a nod and a smile.  How many times have you smiled at someone and not received a smile back?  Rarely right?  Smiles like yawns are contagious.

woman waving in the window part 2Make sure there are no strangers today. Instead of just seeing a person taking your order, take time to look at their face and their name tag.  Thank them by name.  Make a difference where you can.  And as you look out the window, smile at those nameless faces, wave at them.  Make the world a little smaller and a little more welcoming.

Life is not about our simple existence, life is all about living. Live life in a way that brings comfort and joy to those you encounter. Bring joy and not pain.  Then you can look out your window at night and thank God for the chance to make a difference yet another day.  Then smile and close your eyes, you will have another chance tomorrow.