I haven't blogged much since arriving in San Antonio. Getting the house in order and our routines established was chaotic as ever after a move and then, in addition to the usual, I decided to start volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. This means that I volunteer my time to kids in the foster care system on a case by case basis and track their needs as their parents navigate the consequences of their actions.
Some of the stories you find in CASA are happy, motivating stories that light up a city but as often the stories are sad. I wasn't unaccustomed to brushing the extremes in human emotions--as a dispatcher you deal with that regularly--so I knew that I could handle the weight of being around kids that I couldn't help by focusing on the kids I am helping. And that often works, often I feel satisfied that my time is making a difference and things are getting better for my investment. On days like to day, however, I'm gobsmacked by the amount of work going undone.
I was visiting some of my children at an emergency shelter outside our city. They are there with several other young souls. One small person there was missing their mother very badly. Allow me a moment to share with you, reader, that when you go to these types of shelters the children you see remember you, even the ones you don't advocate for, and they need attention and love. I try to do that while also giving my kiddos special attention. Today this small person just kept wandering up, weeping and needing to be cuddled for a moment. Then I'd say, "Ok. That was a good time out to be sad. Are you ready to play again?" The small human would nod, give me five and try again to play and be happy. A few minutes later they were back and the cycle would repeat.
I was there just over an hour today, not long at all, but when I started to leave this small, wonderful, beautiful soul started screaming--I mean, folks, screaming and not the yelling some children do for attention or out of frustration and anger--the word 'no' over and over again. I kissed the beautiful head, touched their cheek and then walked away using all of my strength to put one foot in front of the other instead of falling at their feet and staying forever.
Tonight I'm a mix of emotion so heady that I'm physically ill in waves thinking about this small human, thinking of all the children there who don't have advocates--parental, familial or assigned--and how terrible I think it is that people have made these small ones and because of 'aren't' or 'can't' neglect or harm them and, in honesty, I'm punishing myself a little for walking away.
I understand there wasn't much of a choice to be made. I could not take that child and run away, keeping them safe forever. I couldn't just stay until the fear passed because there is nothing but transitions and good-byes in the next few months for that beautiful one either from parents, caseworkers or caregivers. I can't do justice to every child in CPS care city, county, state or nation wide though I'd honestly give a limb or two in order to have that ability. My only choice was to show all the love I could in the time I was present and then do what had to be done.
When I rounded the corner from the playground I had to stop, let the screams slash through me and brace myself against a wall for a moment, letting the cool sharp stucco ground me in reality, in something solid. I reminded myself about my kiddos, about doing all I can for the responsibilities I have and then I walked away.
And now I'm not sure when I'll sleep again because all I can picture is that little face in a bed at a place that is not home, confused because people keep saying goodbye.