Some things in life hurt. It's especially hard for me when things that hurt me when I was young are amplified ten times or more for other children. This list makes my heart break.
A friend of mine posted this on facebook yesterday, a copy of a wish list from a foster child in Oklahoma.
I read this and was amazed that with a few exceptions, this list could have been mine from childhood. While inducing tears, it also made me extremely grateful for the good things I did have as a child.
* Love. My mother loved us unconditionally* A Drug/Alcohol free home
* We had soap, and I remember having a toothbrush--sometimes?
* I don't recall ever getting head lice or having cockroaches.
Everything else, well... yeah. Food and water -- I could tell you stories about my mother hauling 5-gallon buckets of water from neighbors houses to use for cooking/drinking when ours was shut off. Or the heat being shut off in the middle of a Wyoming Winter.
I don't want to talk about my toys and our (my brothers and my) games being sold. Those memories kind of suck.
Nice shoes and nice clothes were a fantasy. Especially nice shoes. My brothers all needed shoes sooooo badly. I had better luck with the hand-me-downs because other girls' things tended to last longer than my girl things (because I wore my stuff out just as fast as my brothers.) Boys are harder on clothes, period, though, so even their hand-me-downs were already worn through. It's not like we were picky, though. We'd wear what we had, because it's what we had, even if the soles of our shoes flapped around like we were our own drum line.
By the time I was 12, I gave up on the idea of trying to be feminine. I didn't own any church shoes, so I became very vocal about refusing to be girlie or attempting to be feminine - you know, by NOT wearing things like nylons or pumps or whatever cute things the girls were wearing in the mid-80's. My grandmother had made some nice dresses, but I paired them with the first socks I could find (mated or not) and the pair of shoes I owned - usually a pair of ugly black sneakers. -- I mean UUUUUGGGLY.
It's an interesting thing, what we come up with as coping mechanisms to deal with the perceived judgments of others.-- You're gonna look at me and sniff because of my shoes? yeah, well, I don't *want* to look like wimpy girly you and your sore feet and uncomfortable nylons. If I'm gonna sit here for three hours, I'm at least going to be comfortable. So there.--
I wasn't in the foster system. I know for a fact that I have not had a life as hard as most of theirs has been. But my childhood had it's own special brand of hellish that instilled empathy for anyone who writes a list like this.
Here I am, thirty years later, sitting in front of a nice computer in a clean home with sheets on the beds, paid utilitites, and a healthy mix of new and hand-me-down clothes in everyone's closet.
I am extremely proud of my brothers and who they have grown up to be. One has a Ph.D. in Engineering, One owns his own business. One works hard at a good job that is an hour's drive from his home and family. They each grew up to be good and caring men. They each served honorable missions. They are each wonderful, fun, and just as imperfect as the rest of us. But they grew from where they came from. I wish everyone could see it. Not everyone does, nor does everyone give them credit for being who they are when things could have turned out so much worse.
I am somewhat biased when it comes to my brothers, yes. We survived. We more than survived, we grew from what we endured. And we all respect and love our mother for everything she sacrificed and endured for and with us. She went without food more than we did. She... was amazing.
I cannot say that I am as accomplished as my brothers. I do have my degree, and I maintained a 3.86 gpa (with kids and while pregnant with kids). I climbed my way up the corporate ladder and could be working in a much higher position in the hotel industry if I had chosen to stay in that field. I chose mommyhood instead.
All of that aside, I will only feel like I have truly accomplished something with my life when none of my children ever, ever, ever have to write a list like the one above.
Even better, if I can help another child remove something from that list.
I have limitations with service, yes. More now than ever before, but still there are things I *can* do:
* Love people. Truly. So they see it in my eyes when I smile at them.
* drop a surprise box of groceries on someone's porch. (This one is my favorite. My husband and I love this particular act of service)
I know this is a wandering kind of post with no real thesis or aim, just rambling thoughts. So I may as well end here.
I feel hopeful.
I feel sad for those poor children out there that I can't bring into my home because I am not mentally capable of handling them right now.
I want to be able to mother them all. I am so very proud and supportive of a friend of mine who is a foster parent.
I want to ask everyone to please share the love. Just feel it, share it, and don't overlook those poor kids out there who need someone to love them.