Monday, February 13, 2006

Reaching Out

Fostering is, above most other things, about reaching out. It's about knowing that you may take a bad body blow, and knowing without fail that you will take one sooner or later, and reaching out and grabbing a kid's hand, and trying to help them across a chasm of trouble and grief without letting them hurt themselves too badly.

In the process, you can get your own reputation tarred in a community. People wonder about you. They wonder what's wrong with you that you want to spend your time with kids so much. False allegations can give you legal headaches. There are a lot of things in that vein that we've been spared so far, but will probably be along to enliven our lives sometime.

Kids can throw beanballs at you, too. They let you down, and lie, and generally act like miniature versions of their pig parents. They don't necessarily appreciate even your most earnest efforts. It's a rough racket.

It's made more rough when people who you'd think would be on your side don't seem to be coming across for you.

"Josie" has made a friend that I judge to be very, very good for her. This girl is a year older, much more "ladylike" and modest than "Josie", and has that...charisma...that seems to make "Josie" look at her as a sort of role model. The effects have been sometimes subtle, other times very visible. The girl now likes to go to the church youth group, and goes to sit with the other teens when we go to church. She's socializing well with the church kids, some of whom are genuinely great kids and all of whom are preferable to many of the friends she's spent so much time with before she landed here.

Well, it's not all sunny, either. A couple of weeks ago, "Josie" went to a basketball game with her friend, and made the very bad decision to leave the game for a bit and go sit in a car with one of her boy-friends (not an actual boyfriend, no hyphen, which is a different critter altogether). She had a drag on a cigarette in the process. Not our favorite thing for her to do, but so much less catastrophic than other things that we're willing to overlook it if she's willing to take the trouble to be discreet about it.

The problem is, there was a miscommunication and what got back to her friend's parents was not "menthol" cigarette but "meth" cigarette. This caught them flatfooted, and understandably they had doubts about whether they wanted their daughter hanging around with this girl anymore.

Yesterday, "Josie" made me deeply proud of her. After church, without any urging and acting on her own idea, she approached those parents and explained herself boldly and clearly. She made it known that she was sorry about leaving the game, that she hadn't done anything as bad as what they had thought, and that she didn't want to lose their daughter's friendship. The Wife and I backed her up afterward, vouching for the truthfulness of her statements.

Here's where it gets difficult. Those parents have every right to be nervous, but they now have conflicting obligations as I see it. On the one hand, they have to protect their daughter. On the other, they consider themselves good Christians, and good Christians mix with less savory types if they're doing it right. Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and even worse scumbags than me. We're supposed to follow his example, and accept people into our hearts and lives, even if they're from the wrong side of the track and even if they might tempt our own children down a wrong path or two.

My mother is the finest example of this kind of Christlike behavior I have ever seen. She risked her own childrens' purity and innocence in order to invite, shall we say, questionable elements into our house in an effort to help and reform them into good and happy people. People probably criticized her for it, too. But then, Jesus wasn't all that popular with everybody if the gospels have the story straight. Some people downright hated him. Some had him killed for it. Doesn't matter. We still have an obligation to do stuff like this.

So now these parents have to decide whether they have the courage to expose their daughter to risks and temptations. They would also be giving their daughter a unique opportunity to help "Josie" assimilate with a newer, healthier social group than she's ever known.

Lord, just nudge them a little. Please give them an understanding of what this could mean to Your child. Fill them with the knowledge that they would be doing a good thing, and help them overcome their understandable hesitation and do the right thing.



At 6:48 AM , Blogger Beth said...

This is not quite relevant to your exact issue with "Josie"...but...
Last year when we had all the problems with David we learned that he was saying all sorts of things about us. We learned that no one -- teachers, youth group leader, and even his friends -- believed him. They all waited until they could hear from us to know what was really going on.

It was painful, but it was also good to realize that or reputation in the community has built us up that much trust.

Okay...part of it was that "David" had built up so little trust...


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