Happy Tuesday (almost Wednesday)! It’s the last day of March which means Social Work Month 2015 is coming to an end. As some of you may know, I am a Social Worker. I’ll never forget my excitement when I first learned about the field of Social Work. The mission, core values & principles, and ethics are everything I would design had I been able to build a profession from the ground up. As I began pursuing my BSW, my excitement grew, and by the time I completed my MSW, I was a full-blown passionate Social Worker! How awesome that I could do what I love and love what I do AND make a living!! Between internships, completing my BSW & MSW, and my career, I spent about 10 years in the public child welfare field. Some may call it ironic that I ultimately had to leave my professional calling of serving children and families in order to SAVE my own. I call it God.
My last gig in the public child welfare world was in Arlington County. It was this season 4 years ago that I came back to my desk and found a portion of a beautiful letter written by Dr. Jaiya John. It was a particularly intense and emotional time in the life of the girls’ case. We had recently broken the news to all three girls that Chelsea and Savanna were not coming home to us from their residential placements. I had stepped away from my desk to take a call from Amy, the girls’ attorney, and now, dear friend. She was calling to give me a legal update and talk about how everyone was doing. I remember everything about that phone call, including where I was standing, what I was wearing, and all the thoughts and feelings that came rushing out. Up until that point, I had done a pretty darn good job of maintaining my composure (all things considered). That day, though, it was as if the flood gates had been opened. I was feeling abandoned, betrayed, horrified, guilty, ashamed, outraged, and very broken, yet miraculously beautiful. Although in many ways we were surrendering and many even went so far as to describe us as “giving up”, I was still hopeful, committed, determined, and had a firm grip on my faith. A faith that promised me that our family of 5 would, one day, rise from the ashes. That together, we would pursue and experience healing and restoration beyond our wildest imaginations. That no matter what and no matter where, this Phoenix Family would find ourselves BURNING BRIGHTLE…
After hanging up with Amy, I had to leave work because I had officially reached EMPTY. So, I quickly and quietly went to my desk to grab my things and pack up. This is when I found a portion of the letter below face down on my chair. I snuck out of the office and read it as soon as I got to my car. Oh, the wisdom, comfort, and strength that overcame me as I read Jaiya’s words was God-sent. Although I later learned that the print out was from one of my colleagues in honor of Social Work Month, I truly believed it was my confirmation that I was doing the right thing for and by my girls.
Since that afternoon in 2011, this letter has evolved into a very deeply personal message. I have shared it with a select few over the years. I am feeling moved to share it again and cannot pick and choose among our village, so figured here would be a good place : -) I love a good full-circle moment and being able to share this on my blog is an incredible full-circle moment for me. They say it takes a village and our family is living proof! I never cease to be amazed by how large and strong our village is. Not a day goes by that it doesn’t grow, either in number or strength. So far everyone who has read my blog (that I can tell) and all of my Facebook friends have had at least one direct positive impact on the girls’ and our lives. Thank you for all you do. Day in and day out, for us and the girls…and for all the children and families in your other villages. Thank you for caring enough to serve our children. And, by OUR children, I mean every child. I believe we belong to each other…so, in our books, this make all children OUR children.
As we close out this 2015 Social Work Month and head into Child Abuse Prevention Month, my family and I would appreciate you sharing this in one way or another (if you feel so moved, of course (only a little bit of pressure!) re-post, blog, tweet, email, print, tell someone the story, etc.). My dreams include a child welfare system with improved safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. A system that would operate more efficiently and effectively so that the type of trauma my girls, my family, and our community endured will be prevented for someone, somewhere else. Child abuse and secondary trauma are preventable. I am trusting that these words will stir up tiny ripples of knowledge, power, hope, and healing. And that these ripples will collide with other ripples to create an unstoppable current of restoration for our public child welfare system…on an individual, family, community, political, professional, institutional, and corporate level.
Dear One Who Cares Enough to Serve My Life:
I am a child for now. One day I will be the cascading consequence of your touch. Last night in my room, I found myself releasing a watershed’s gathering of tears. I fell asleep as a river. When I woke I realized what that river was: a flow of gratitude. For you.
Dear Caring One . . . If ever you find yourself as a river filled with too much . . . just too much . . . I hope you will take out my words, and swallow them into your heart, so you will know that who you are is always Greater than what sometimes feels like just too much. I want you to know I am a river that passed once by you, and when I arrived, you did not turn away. You did not turn away.
The first time you sat with me, you chose to look from your soul into mine. I could see you seeing me. I could feel you feeling me. In that moment I had found an island on which to rest my weariness in this wide and unforgiving sea. You let me glimpse just a little evidence of your own life struggles in the honest quiver of your face. In spirit I felt you take my hand and join me in this deserted place they call The Young Who Is in Need. I wonder when they will realize that when my heart is cut it is the entire human soul that bleeds.
You told me secret stories of your scars, and fears, and doubts, and how your own tender blossom was violated before you ever released your bloom. You watched over me with Love, even as society watched over you, suspicious of us both. Each time they wanted to brand me with stigmatic lies and cast me to the dungeon of social banishment, your voice cried out: This life will not be left to scavengers. Its sun will surely shine!
I began to know what hope feels like, as you showed me how your life’s fate was hitched to mine. Over and over in panic I drew my weapon of distrust against your advances. Instead of gunning me down in return by giving up on me, you smiled and said: Holster your fear, and come inside the shelter of your possibilities. I did. You stood at the door, on guard while I lay down to catch a rare and needed sleep.
When I woke, you were there, with bowls full of fresh hot faith in me, and lightness and laughter poured in cups of tea. You ate with me. Which is to say: You wrapped your human soul around my human struggle and let me feel your heat. You were going to care enough for me to do whatever it took. I know that look. I’ve seen it in the eyes of parents well enough to protect their young, and halt the world at the line of indiscretion against their offspring.
I keep springing off from earth on forays of fantasy, looking for an escape from my reality. You keep risking merciless outer space, with no fancy ship or special suit, to bring me back to the planet of my destiny. You help me to see that what I thought was my reality is my illusion, and that I can arrange the stones of my circumstance into a staircase ascending into the life I dream.
Do you know how great you are? You stand your ground every time I scream. I walk heavy . . . you lift me up in laughter. When laws and rules say: No, we can’t do that to help that one, you crush that No under your heel and by will of force give No no choice but to turn into a Yes. You change laws and rules by the power of your devotion. You change this world. For caring is revolution’s greatest sword and you wield that gleaming power. You are the sixty strokes of endurance that help pass my fateful hour.
When I fear sunset, you lift the disbelieving sun for just a while longer. When I falter, you alter my course with kind correction and firm resolve. When I thirst, you pour more water. In my darkness, here comes your candlelight. You teach me by the way you touch me how to kindly touch our humankind.
I carry a porous bag leaking my relationships. You walk behind with your brave basin catching all the drops. I have never heard you slur my mom or curse my pops. I have never sensed you insinuate that I come from bad people, or that good people will save my life. Your lesson is always about the goodness inside what looks like badness, and that I, like the earth, and being of the earth, carry all that I need to heal myself, reveal myself, kneel myself down before my Greatness and let life’s cleansing breath carry all my woundedness away.
On this day, Dear Caring One, I hope my words infiltrate your fatigue. That my words live inside you, a Love virus you can never eradicate. This world and its values cannot measure you. Only the lives you touch can do that. Cruelness and coldness can never create new life. Only your Light can do that. The Peace you so deserve is pronounced compassion. This Peace sits waiting in old oak barrels only your Love can tap.
Dear Caring One, lift my words to your lips and drink this truth into your heart: You are the Greatest Gift this young life has ever known. If I am royalty, your service is my throne.
In Gratitude Forever,
A child for now . . . one day the full grown life your Loving honed.
Copyright © 2011 Jaiya John