Have you ever encountered that person who made you want to scream and pull your hair out? Have you ever tried to spend time with someone who made you so frustrated that you would rather be cut with a rusty nail? Have you ever encountered someone who you felt at times was unlovable?
Working in child welfare brings a plethora of experiences where we have to love, or attempt to love, those who would be deemed unlovable. The youth who are over the age of ten and act as if they have it figured out, while the adults are completely wrong. Those kids who would be categorized as “hard to place” because of behaviors and or mental health. Those children who are defiant and push everyone away because they have experienced such severe trauma in their short lives that they would rather be alone than to be hurt one more time by and unreliable adult. Those little ones who are consistently disobedient, physically aggressive, and make verbal threats that you aren’t quite sure they are willing to act upon. Those lambs that really deep down, just want to be loved, but don’t know how to receive it.
We tend to accept the love we believe we deserve.
What does that mean? These children don’t feel that anyone loves them. They don’t feel like anyone wants them. They don’t feel that they are important. They have been shuffled around, and they feel forgotten. Their clothes get lost. Their personal items get thrown in trash bags that moonlight as luggage. Their self worth sometimes is nonexistent. How can I make this conclusion? Come speak to a 14 year young lady who has been sexually assaulted and hear how she speaks so nonchalantly about her physical experiences. Then you will see how they really don’t find treasure in themselves at all. It is tragic, sad, heartbreaking, and it really makes me angry that their innocence has been stripped away from them.
One particular child under the age of ten has been at the shelter now for a month. Safe Place is not a permanent placement. It is an emergency shelter. Think of it like a hospital emergency room triage area. We are supposed to meet the immediate needs of children while placement is sought for them either in licensed care or with relatives. For a child to have been there a month, eating the same food, playing the same games, looking at the same walls, and seeing staff go home and be comfortable has only exacerbated his defiant behavior. He has seen over 100 children come and leave during his month-long stay while he has remained in our care without placement. While I can’t divulge specifics regarding the case to answer your questions of “why…?” just know that people are working. This is part of the reality of a system that is quite fragile. It doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to according to policies, flow charts, and statutes. We are living in a muddled pool of ambiguity.
He has done almost everything imaginable to push every staff and volunteer off the deep end. He makes rude comments, swears, screams, runs around, makes verbal threats… anything to get a rise out of his caretakers. I will admit that I was at my wit’s end with his behaviors, but something broke in me tonight. I looked into his eyes and said, “You are in my house tonight, so the nonsense stops here.” Wow… well he stopped acting up… but he did say under his breath with a scoff, ” This is not a house.” Then we went into his room and I told him that we were going to pray. In my prayer I acknowledged that he didn’t like it at Safe Place, he wanted to be home, and that I understood that he was angry. In addition I affirmed that we loved him anyway, wanted him to be able to be back home as soon as safely possible, and that it was a desire that tomorrow be a new day with new hopes. After praying I looked him in the eyes and told him that despite his choices, we weren’t going to stop loving and caring for him. Despite his choice to lose video game privileges we wanted him to be happy. I encouraged him that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to be successful, and I told him to get some rest.
Does God feel this way about us sometime?
God…this child is so hurt. I can see it in his eyes. I can see the disappointment all over his face and body language. Lord, this situation has challenged me to the core. Help me to love on this child more! Help our staff and volunteers to do the same.
Help us to love the unlovable.