Go here with me for a moment. Please.
You are a child. Taken from your home. Because some grown-ups said it was unsafe for you. Strangers. They showed up in the night and woke you up and took you from your bed. You didn’t get to take anything with you. Ono barked at first, but you told her to calm down and she looked at you with her worried doggy eyes. You knew she sensed your fear. “It’s okay, girl,” you say. But you don’t know if it is. You don’t know at all.
The truth is, you were in such a dire situation–your daily reality–that this quick extraction from your home appeared to “do-gooders” as the best alternative. You are a child. You are innocent. Your life has been hard. Stability is not even in your vocabulary. But, you love your dog, Ono. You found her hungry and alone and caught in a trap, she needed you as much as you needed her. She is someone that loves you. That follows you everywhere-sleeps next to you. You can’t wait to get home from school because she does this excited thing at the back gate, where she lowers the front of her body and raises her hind-end, wagging her tail with so much raw fervor, you think she may take flight. Then she covers you in kisses and you fall down laughing and hug her tight.
But now you’re not sure you’re ever coming back. Do-gooders can’t take a dog, they say. Mom’s been gone a while now and Dad won’t take care of her-he can’t even take care of himself. If he is home he is either really angry or passed out. You prefer passed out. What is going to be Ono’s fate? Your chest feels an incredible pain and tears burn your eyes. It is cold and your aunt mindlessly puts her in the backyard and closes the door. Her food and water aren’t out there. The do-gooders and your aunt talk in hushed voices as someone puts a firm hand on your shoulder and guides you through the hallway of your trailer. You’re both careful where you step as the floor is caved through in places. Your aunt lights a cigarette and your asthma threatens to kick in. They let you grab your inhaler, but it stopped working too long ago to remember. Then you get into a car and every single person from this day forward is a stranger.
This is the reality for children born into terrible situations around the US. They have done nothing wrong but they have been victims of life. They may not even know that they are harder, more mature, or more resilient. This may be their norm, but somebody noticed. And out of the goodness of some person’s heart, reported concerns.
These children may be malnourished, neglected, they may be beaten or molested. They make their reality as livable as they can. They find joys and comforts where they can. But when it becomes noticeable to others, others will step in to stop the abuse and save the child.
So what happens then? Do we even know?
These children are brought to a shelter of sorts, where other children, ranging in age from only five years old, to eighteen, are put for up to 90 days to stay until they can be placed elsewhere. This shelter is one of many in Texas but may be hours and hours away from their home. They are given items to get by with. They attend school in the town where the shelter is and walk in with a stigma.
They are not bad kids. They are like any of us would be in this situation. Scared. Troubled. Innocent.
This is Connections. A place where volunteers and staff come to try to help these children as they are being “held” until they are sent to a foster home, an approved relative or guardian or another shelter.
If they hit 18 while in this system, they have very little chance of a successful future. They are on their own.
So what do we do? How do we help? Look at your child. What if this was their reality. It isn’t right. Nor is it fair. And neither is life. But we can rally and show them support.
I will be working closely with the huge-hearted volunteers at Connections, so I can learn where we can help most. I know they need things like new underwear, socks, toiletries, too. But we need to show love, as a community. So let’s show the depth of heart in Texas. Christmas is coming. We can’t guarantee the children that make Christmas lists will still be at Connections by the time Christmas comes. So we have to be a bit generic. But let’s reach out and show them love and comfort during this time. And let’s find ways to help. Here is a current list of what is needed most. Some of you I will reach out to directly and ask for your help. Others, I would love to discuss an initiative that you can bring to your business and in unity, we can make Connections that change lives. Our lives, and theirs. We cannot forget. Don’t even try to. It’s an ugly reality and it may feel like efforts to assist are futile. But that is how we fail, if we don’t even try. And New Braunfels, we’re going to try.