Anguish: noun. 1. excruciating or acute distress, suffering, pain
How do we make this a better place to live in? A place where we withhold judgment, a place where children are safe and valued, a place where all people matter.
This morning as I drop my child off at school. I watch as the cross guard comes over to help him. I notice a car headed in his direction but no concern. After all my son is with a crossing guard on a cross walk. Well the mother driving was so concerned, with making sure her child made it in the building, that she was not paying attention to my child, who was in front of her car.
Are we so concerned with what is ours that we pay no mind to others?
I think back to yesterday, it was a full day, many calls and everyone stating “it’s an emergency”. A young mother that escaped domestic violence is in need. She stayed in a shelter but fell through the cracks and was not assigned a case worker. She finally found a place to live and also found a job. She now lives in a trailer with no windows, no heat, no air and no gas. This home with a roof that is about to collapse, shelters her and her four boys.
Is the land lord so concerned about taking care of his own that others don't matter?
My 12:00 o'clock emergency is having lunch with my husband, the birthday boy. I have to run across town to have lunch but I figure you only turn 21 once. Well my honey has actually turned 21 about 23 times. I get to the restaurant and wait for him to arrive.
My phone rings and it is a father on the other end. With anguish, he tells me his 14 year old son was caught with drugs at school. He is calling to ask for help. He needs help figuring out the consequences his son will face. He has many questions. What will his son be charged with? Will his son serve time? Will his son be able to go back to school? Will there be fees? Will he need an attorney?
With anguish in my voice, I respond, "I don't know". The father is distraught as he does not know what to do. He so desperately wants to help his son but he doesn’t know how. I so desperately want to help his son but I too, don’t know how.
We exchange many phone calls throughout the day. I call the school and rally support. On our final conversation of the day, the father asks me more questions. This time there is tenderness and love seeps through his failing voice. He wants to know where he has gone wrong. He wants to know how he has failed. He wants to know what he can do different.
He wants to help his son but he doesn’t seem to wear the right clothes or drive the right car. He doesn’t have the right job and he doesn’t know middle class language. He doesn’t have a title or an education. So does this mean his son should be forgotten?
Where have we gone wrong? Where have we failed? What can we do different? I imagine the child sitting in his cell, knowing his parents do not have the knowledge to help him. Will the system take over and count him as lost?
What if it was one of our own children, what would we do then?
I am reminded that I can’t help everyone! It’s a good thing I don’t follow instruction well.
This morning, I went to court with the family. As I entered the building, the family sees me. The mother rises and goes out to greet me. I tell her I am here for support because that is all I know to do. We all sit quietly outside the court room. We wait, what seems like hours. A group of people begin to enter the court room and we all follow. As we walk in they tell us they will call in one family at a time. I ask the attorney, if I will be able to go in with the family? He asks who I am. I tell him "My name is Elia Moreno. I am the Community Engagement Coordinator for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch". The atmosphere changes as I am acknowledge because I have a title, he replies with a polite "yes ma'am".
It is our turn and we walk in, I follow the young boy as he goes to sit in front of the judge. The attorney is requesting that this child be detained for two weeks. I see the childs face and hope quickly departs. I see defeat in his posture and in his eyes I can see his spirit is crushed.
The Judge asks some questions and then he allows the father to speak. I ask for permission to stand as I translate.I am allowed, The father tells me to tell the judge that he will do all that he can to get help for his child. He pleads on his childs behalf. He ask that he please spare his child.
I stand to speak on his behalf but it is my heart that is audible and my passion that is heard. The attorney changes his mind and decides maybe detaining him would not be best. The Judge agrees and sets him free. This is life changing for this family, they will succeed because they now feel as if maybe they do matter.
We travel to the detention center where they will release the child. After a process we walk out of the building. Once outside I am certain my emotions will take over. We stand in a circle and I am allowed to pray with the family. I open my mouth but I can not speak.
We stand in sweet silence.
“Love your Neighbor as yourself”