Sometimes we are just broken

“What are you going to do about it?” The man is really shouting now. He points at three of us sitting quietly across the room. “They keep on shooting and dying.” I am not looking at him but looking slightly down and simply nodding my head. I want to stand up and just yell. I want to scream at the top of my lungs until there is no air left to create sound. “What do you think I have been doing asshole?,” I want to yell. I spend every day trying to figure out what more I can do, how else I can have an impact. I already work eighty hour weeks and leave before the sun comes up and struggle back in the door long after it has retreated for the night. I have given you and this community what is left of my crumbling soul, I have nothing else that I can give.


There are gym windows above his head. I stare out at them, wishing I could escape his wrath. He is a parent and I know the son that he lost. He has every right to be mad, there are two more innocent lives that he must shelter from the storm. He needs help. I know that he needs help, but so do I. We need each other, we all need each other but no one here gets that. Today is about blame and responsibility.


These meetings are a waste of effort and I grow tired of them. Some politician will come in and remind everyone about how much they have done to help the crime and violence problem. They look to us to support their claims, although we each know that their “efforts” are just talk and the end result is absolutely nothing. The impact is none at all, their effort cannot do much. A fly cannot possibly move an elephant yet these fly’s want to take credit for trying.

The uniformed chief next to me speaks first. He explains that we use data to help deploy resources to areas that need then, that officers walk the streets now instead of driving up and down with windows closed and eyes hidden behind dark glasses. He says that we talk to people now.


All of those things are true, yet it hasn’t changed. We do walk around now and talk to people but they don’t talk to us. They don’t trust us and they don’t trust each other. Here if you are heard saying the wrong thing to us and your name will be shared quickly with those who do not like that you chat with us.

A community opens its door to everyone. When I was a kid, the back door was never locked. The mothers, all of the mothers, would sit and listen to the yard to hear what kids were doing and to seek retribution when they heard one of us wrong another. More than once I was corrected by another mom or dad on the block for my violation of our neighborhood rules for the way we treat each other. They would not do that now. They could not do that now, it would be disrespectful toward the kid. The kid who decides what respect means and uses his 9 to communicate the decision.


I look back at their faces and see the fear. It looks like anger and hatred, but that is exactly what fear looks like. Fear and anger are the same. I cannot get angry at something that holds no sway over me, that I am not afraid of. But if I fear you, then you have power over me and that makes me angry. They have no control and they are angry.


So am I. I am angry every time I look at the lifeless eyes staring back at me from a child whose bright future came to a dark end on a cold filthy street for no reason. I am angry because that same street is empty of life, no witnesses, no empathy for the family or guilt for the failure to stop it. They will come here and be brave and bold in accusation but out there, they cower and hide. They avert their eyes but I cannot.


They leave shaking their heads and muttering about how useless we are. That is the first thing that they would say today that I agree with. That is what I feel. This is why so many days I have to close my door and hide so that I can just break down. The tears will come for maybe a half an hour then just stop. I have no idea when they will come again. I don’t know what images trigger them, but I do know why. It is because I am helpless. I am a tool for a broken system. I am a broom left to clean up whatever mess is created. But even a broom needs a hand to help it. There is no magic here. The broom will sit quietly in the corner until someone, anyone, steps up to use it.


I am tired of feeling this way. I am tired of not sleeping and feeling the guilt of a hundred innocent lives and countless more who have yet to suffer but I know will. I am tired and weary when I leave. My shoulders sag and I feel as if I can do nothing but stagger under the imaginary weight of all of them.


broken windows
These are the days that I don’t just have thoughts when looking outside this dirty and disgusting broken window. These are the days when I just wish that I could jump and not feel it any more. I am too afraid to jump. I am afraid and I am angry. I cannot look out the window anymore, I just close my eyes and wait for the pain to stop.

A child cloaked in anger

You can see the anger in his face. His brow is furrowed and arched in a way that makes his eyes narrow and seem very frightening. When he opens his mouth to scream, words don’t escape from his open lips, but they emit a sort of guttural groaning sound. It is loud, and it disturbs me. I want to help him to calm down, but he will not listen to me. The walls are up, and it will take a lot to bring them back down again.

I look into his eyes again and see the hatred and anger. I have seen this expression before, but rarely could those looks cut through me and expose me to the core. I open my mouth to speak and, like him, words simply do not come out. I close my mouth and contemplate what I can do next to reach him.

He is seven, and he should not feel this way. The pictures that he draws are frightening, and the stories that he tells can scare anyone. They are afraid of him. I am afraid FOR him. Something happened to create the monster before me. He wasn’t born believing these things. He wasn’t born with the need to see how people react in terror to the things that he says or the actions that he takes. This game that he plays, his desire to find your core fear and to expose it just does not seem normal.

I pause for that thought. Again, someone said to me that he is not normal. It begs the question; please tell me what “normal” looks like? As a society, help me to figure this one out! Is it normal to watch televisions shows that depict the worst parts of the human condition? But those are the highest rated shows. Is it normal to feel such a strong sense of religious belief that you are willing to strap on an explosive garment and blow yourself up along with hundreds of strangers to demonstrate that commitment? It happens each and every day around the globe.

I have decided that each person in the world has their own normal. It is their history and their sense of who they are. It is their character and their DNA. There is no one normal and we need to stop trying to force others to fit into our own definition of normal.

Then there are those who experience a normal that conflicts with our sense of right and wrong, of safety and fear. There are these entities like the child that hides under the table before me. His experience was so very different; he can’t talk about what created his normal. He is not yet willing to open the curtains and show us the room that he has lived his life within. It hurts him. He sees the others and he wants them to play with him, he wants them to accept him so that he can feel accepted. He doesn’t know how to pretend that whatever he has seen, heard or even worse felt, did not exist.

And so the words just do not come. His frustration just explodes from his body, every movement, and every sound is a display of his feeling that he cannot control his world. He wants to control it; I know he does. He wants to be calm as the others. I know that too. It is the bridge that I must find to connect him with the person that he wishes to be. This is what escapes me. I don’t know how to help him. I sit and simply look at him. Like a paramedic sitting with his bag of bandages and medicine next to the patient yet not being able to show us where they are bleeding. We want to bandage them and find a way to make them smile. We need to do that but I cannot even begin to try to help your wounds heal if you do not meet me on the journey to show me where you are hurt and where I can put the bandage.

His father comes and forces him out from under the table. The boy is still angry then frightened. He fears whatever punishment may come after the calls from the school. The calls that took his father from his work and yet again brought him to us here. I hate these calls for the parent’s sake. The call where the person from the school tried to dress up the issue with a pretty bow and wrapping paper, but each parent knows what the call means. Something is not right with your child and we don’t know how to manage it.

After a ten-minute struggle, I watch the boy go limp in his father’s arms, surrendered to whatever will happen now. His will to fight is gone, he knows that he will not win and that he cannot control whatever happens now. He gives up. His father asks him if he is ready to go home. He looks up and simply nods his head.

Then it happens. It happens so quickly that I cannot find a way to relate what happens next with what I have seen for the past two hours. This child reaches up to hold his father’s hand. His father reaches down and gently takes his son’s hand, and they walk out together. No more struggle. No more tears.

I watch as they walk the sidewalk outside and I am struck by how much this poor tortured soul, for this one minute, gets to feel the way he wants to feel. He is a child who is loved by his parent. Watching out the window just now erases the painful words and jolts of pain when the kicks and fists came. There was the child I was trying to reach. He found what he wanted. He wanted to be loved. I don’t know what happened when they left. I haven’t seen him since.
For right now, I am hopeful that this child will find some peace. That the view outside of my window at this very moment will replay itself a few more times for his sake. That somehow if he is loved a little more and if he is allowed to be the child that he wants to be, that he can grow up and be “normal.”

Judgement Day

There are no windows here. Four walls adorned with government symbols and flags. It’s supposed to represent the power of government to protect the people. For some reason it just represents a room with no view of the past or future. It’s just a place where we apply the law, nothing more and nothing less.

The lights in the courtroom seem brighter today. Almost blinding me. I am sitting with two others in the jury box because there are no seats available in the gallery. Normally we sit in the back, hidden away from the judge and the lawyers. Our work is done, after nearly a year and thousands of hours toiling over disgusting and almost inhuman information and messages and pictures and emails, after an eternity of darkness in his pathetic and single minded little world, we are done and today is his day.  It is judgement day.

In the back corner of the gallery I can see her sitting with her mother and father. She is in college now but she still looks so very innocent.  She is pretty and tries to hide her beauty under long hair and baggy clothes. Her lack of self-confidence is entirely because of him. Just another wound that may never heal.  She sees me looking and smiles shyly.  I smile back and give her a nod. She did the right thing. We are here for her today.  But she is not the only victim here.

His wife and kids are here to. They haven’t really seen him for a year. He sat in a cold dark cell while we busied ourselves exploring the depths of his depravity.  His wife still believed him. At times I wanted to just call her and tell her what we found. Tell her what he really was. Tell her that she deserved so very much more than the monster that she shared a bed with for so long.

I look to his oldest daughter who was only a year or two younger than the victim.  I remember seeing text messages to his daughters about picking them up and the very next text setting up a time to meet a girl their age to “play.”  That’s what he called the game. It was play.  Most games have a winner and a loser.  Not these games. Everyone lost. This entire room lost.

His hair is grey now.  He looks tired in his prison jumpsuit. I look at the handcuffs on the chain belt around his waist and smile a little thinking back to when we first cuffed him.  When we first took away his freedom much the same way that he took hers away. He was going with us whether he wanted to or not. She felt the same way. She thought he loved her and where he went she would follow.  She was a prisoner of another kind, a worse kind of emotional prison.girl-in-the-window

I hear him apologize to her and his family. Its sounds hollow to me. His mother begins to wail and he describes how their “relationship” started. He calls it a relationship. I feel like standing up in my seat and telling the judge that he shouldn’t be allowed to call it that. He shouldn’t be allowed to use that word because it doesn’t represent what he had with her. He raped her, there was no relationship I want to yell.

But I don’t. I sit and wait. Finally he stops talking and the judge begins to establish that he will spend the next seventeen years behind bars considering the impact of what he has done.  Some are happy with that but I look back at her. Her father is holding her tightly as she cries. This part is over. He will “pay” for his crime. But when they walk out of this building and into the street it will not end for her. She will pay for his crime for the rest of her life. I did what I could to give her justice but I know that it will never truly be enough to make up for what he had done.

Again I will go home and shower the feeling of the dirty animal off of me. I will put the thousands of notes and pictures and files into boxes in storage and never look at them again. But I won’t have to. I will remember each of them. I will remember each piece of the pain that he caused. I always do.

When I am finished I sit in my chair and look out of my window. The sun is bright today. All I can think is, “what’s next” and wait for the next cry for help.  It’s out there beyond that window and soon I will hear it and it will start again. That’s my choice. For right now, I relax and sit and wait. What’s next?

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.

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.

Sunrise and renewal

Today’s thought revolves around our connection and reflection outside and inside of that window. Today I saw the sunrise on an amazing morning.  I saw a little mist that clung lazily to the fields next to me as I drove thinking about yesterday’s sadness. But does the sunrise mean the same thing to everyone? To me the sunrise represents opportunity. In reality we get a new chance to start over every single day. Today it was new. The sun still rose. There was still sunshine. When I looked out that window I also noticed my own reflection. I’m still here.

sunrise out the window     How many people do we know that look at life as a long-term struggle? They tell you about their bad week or their bad month or worse yet, their bad year?  So when they wake up every single day they just look out at the world and give up before the day even starts? I don’t understand the mentality that they have to wait for some magic sign that the suffering is over. When do they know that the bad day/month/year is over?

When a child is learning to walk, we celebrate each clumsy little step. They are afraid at first, but with each step you can watch them become more confident, more self-assured.  Then they fall. They are scared at first, almost afraid to try again.  But keep watching them and do you know what you may begin to see? They begin laughing when they fall. As parents we may make jokes about “falling down and going boom” and they learn from us to laugh it off and get back up again.  We never ever tell them to stop.

Yet as adults we tell ourselves to stop and give up all the time. We tell ourselves that we have no hope.  We stop celebrating the little steps and laughing when we fall.  We will all fall and we will all have bad days, weeks or even years. We can sit back and cry or we can get back up and celebrate the next good anything.  Having a bad month? Celebrate when you have one good day.  Having a bad day? Celebrate when you have a good hour or even a good minute!  Take joy in the quick little victory.  Break the chain of defeat and celebrate renewal. That’s the glory of time, it keeps going and with each second comes a new opportunity to change and to start over.

That sunrise was tough because yes, the poor teen I knew did not wake up this morning and will never see another sunrise.  His parents woke up for the first of many days to ignore the sunrise and feel sorrow and emptiness.  I woke up to believe that today was another chance to make a difference. To help someone. To support my kids and my family and my world.

I woke up believing that my reflection in the window meant that I am here to live another day and to live it well.  I hope you have a great sunrise!