As a youth worker it is sometimes hard to see the big picture. We think that we have things figured out, that we have some sort of x-ray vision into the lives of the young people that we are connected to. There may be times we are tempted, after hearing tales of difficulties, to tell young people that we know "exactly" how they feel. When their lives fall apart were may be tempted to say "I told you so". We need to remember that we don't always have a full picture of what is going on or what is going to happen.
Today one of my friends, Danielle Christopher, gives us a glimpse in the world of what it is like to face a world of uncertainty. Danielle, who is now a young mom you may pass in the isle at walmart once was a young person facing a world of hurt. Her story is inspiring to me as I can hope that the young troubled students will turn out to be so "normal." Her story also reminds me that I can never have the whole picture in my head and that there are many times I should just shut my mouth and just listen more.
“Mommy, read it again, please.” My toddler pushes the fairytale book open again. Her eyes stare at me with a puzzled look. I wipe my eyes quickly nodding and take hold of the Cinderella book for the second time.I tell the story and get to the point where Cinderella is crying in the garden and her fairy godmother appears. I feel the tears bubble in my throat again.It has been a month since I said good-bye to my fairy godmother. Ever since I can remember I thought that the fairy godmother in this tale was based on my own godmother, Judy. They both looked the same and taught unconditional love.When my mom died, Judy was my go-to person to talk about anything or to just listen.As my dad’s anger grew grieving for my mom, he focused on me as a target of his abuse. Judy faded away when she moved towns away. My dad’s abuse isolated me. I was afraid to tell anyone what was happening at home.From the time I was eleven until I was almost sixteen, I lived in the pain believing that I deserved it.After one extreme blow-up with my dad and stepmother, they took me to a counselor. They were concerned that I was depressed, my grades dropped and I had no friends.After two months of weekly counseling, I turned sixteen. It was an un-happy birthday. There was an extreme fight. My stepmom took off. Dad slammed the door to his room after telling me my birthday party was cancelled (a half an hour before it was due to start.) I didn’t cancel it and fake-smiled my way through the room of family and the few neighborhood friends that came.The next day I had my regular appointment with the counselor. After he asked me how life was going, I bawled my eyes as I poured out my heart. After I cleaned my face, he looked at me and informed me that since I was sixteen, legally I did not have to live at home as long as I had a safe place to go.After dinner I got a call from my godmother, Judy, wishing me a happy belated birthday. I felt like Cinderella in that garden and told her everything. Judy told me that I could come live with her for two weeks. After she had a long talk with my dad, I left the next day.After the two weeks, I entered the foster care system because she could not afford to keep caring for me. There was no way I was going back to my dad’s house. Due to the process, I had to temporarily live in group homes and smaller foster homes. Judy became my foster mother to help receive money to raise me.When I left her house to get married, we kept in touch. Our ‘adopted’ family kept the Sunday night dinner tradition for several years, rotating hosting duties.The day our daughter was born, a fairy godmother became a fairy grandmother.When Judy was disabled with a bad hip, the relationship between her and my daughter deepened. I got pregnant a second time and was unable to help Judy as much as I wanted to do.Judy died suddenly when my daughters were 2 ½ years old and 5 months. All the pain of losing my mom, my grandmothers and now her, came back tenfold. My daughters lost the grandma they knew. I lost the mother I knew all my life.I break out of the memories to my daughter staring at me again waiting for the end of the story.Hugging and kissing her tight, I am thankful I had one parent figure for as long as I did who loved me no matter what. Because of that gift, it is how I parent and love my miracle daughters every day.Do you have a special person? If not-all you have to do is ask. They are there.
I appreciate Danielle sharing her story and her writing with us here on (Pro)YouthWorker.com. Danielle writes for many websites and is a published author. I recommend reading her blog here at http://justdworld.com.