Every once in a while, in my work with foster children, I am asked to take a child away from their family for the last time. It’s only happened a few times, luckily, but it never gets any easier. Last week it was a 7 month old boy who was handed to me by his father while the child’s grandmother stood by sobbing. I don’t think I will ever forget the experience. At least I know the history well enough to realize the boy is going to be much better off with his adopted family than where he came from and that information makes my job a little less stressful. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way at all.
I struggle with the reality of dysfunctional families and foster care but something inside me compels me to keep trying to make a difference for these kids. I’m not foolish enough to think I’m making that much of a difference, when I’m only present in their lives for a few hours a week, but I do my best to connect, on some level, with every kid I see. Today, I got to spend an extra fifteen minutes with a 2-year-old boy while we waited for his father to show up for their visit. I had the kid laughing out loud as we played together in the waiting room and then, when his father showed up, the kid cried as I left the room. I don’t think his dad was too happy with me but that’s just too bad, maybe he should show up on time and be there to play with the kid himself. That’s what being a good dad is all about, being there for the kid no matter what.
I know I’ve covered this subject before but good dads are extremely important and these kids will readily accept that role from guys like me if their own dads fail to comprehend this principle. I’m never going to say no to any kid who looks up to me for help or who just wants me to hold their hand or who thinks I’m funny when I sing in the car or make them laugh with funny faces. I’ll take all the interaction with children I can get because it makes me feel good to see them smile. Building up a reservoir of good feelings helps me make it through the days when the emotions are pretty raw for all those concerned.
Life is pretty mysterious that way. One minute I’m laughing with a toddler and a few hours later I’m trying to talk a teenager down from the emotional precipice they think they are on at that moment. I don’t think I could do one without the other. It’s definitely a fine line that I have to walk each day between the extremes and finding a balancing point is never easy. I think I learned this from my Dad. He taught me the importance of finding the positives and forgetting the negatives. His calm demeanor in the face of crisis was always something to admire and it must have rubbed off on me. At my last physical, my blood pressure was 92 over 58 and I’ve actually had it lower. That is truly a gift from God and he must have been planning ahead for my work with foster children.
I wish I could teach this skill to other people because I think it would be wildly popular and I could probably get rich. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s just something special in me that makes it possible for me to do this job. At least I found my gift. Maybe if we all just put ourselves out there a little more we would find our unique ability and be able to make a difference too. I sure didn’t know I could do this until I started this job. I was never afraid to try much of anything but this experience was certainly a far cry from my comfort zone. In retrospect, it might be the most important thing I have ever done and I’m glad I took the chance. My advice to all of you is this, “Never stop trying to help others because you will always get back more than you gave.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.