“Thank Heaven for Little Girls”

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Song from the Broadway Musical, “Gigi”

A Latina mom comes into the meditation chapel with her little girl. The girl, who looks to be about ten-years-old, kneels with her mother. Mom brings out a prayer book and mother and daughter kneel close together reading from the same book.

It’s quiet, oh so quiet. In the distance, I hear the faint hum of traffic on Montgomery Drive but within, there is nothing but the sound of silence.
In the quiet, a little girl rests her head on her mothers shoulder and whispers her prayers.

As I ponder the peaceful scene, my out-of-control mind takes a nosedive down, down, down, it wanders. Somewhere, a little girl that age is being teased or bullied by a gang of schoolmates. Somewhere, little girls are being imprisoned as sex slaves by lustful men or made to work 14-hour days in a factory in Central America. Somewhere, little girls like this can not read from a prayer book or any book because they are not taught to read. I shake my head and try to dismiss the negativity.

I re-focus my attention on the little girl kneeling with her mama in church. She is safe and loved and praying to the God of love. I never met this little girl but I know her. I have seen her in my own daughter and grand daughters, protected kids who have their own room, play with American Girl dolls and eat nourishing food.

I see her, too in the children I lived with at the Children’s Village and in the kids I visited in an elementary school in Guatemala, and the little kids I see playing in the homeless shelter here in Santa Rosa. This little kid is all kids who have filled my life and I pray to God that her mom may continue to love and protect her in her journey.

I am sick at heart about the suffering that girls have to endure in this world of ours. The parent in me cries; the dad in me is angry at what we allow to happen to all the little girls (and little boys) who are our responsibility. It’s not okay; it never was okay that our children be made to suffer because we have allowed our dark side free reign. No! Dammit, No!

In the chapel, mom puts her arm around her child and they say a final prayer together before they leave. I send my own prayer and my dreams winging their way.

The words from “Gigi” run through my mind. The jaunty Maurice Chevalier is singing “Thank Heaven for little girls. They grow up in such a delightful way.” Please God, may we work together to make it happen.

Invisible Children

Invisible Kids

“Yesterday upon a stair, I saw a man who wasn’t there
I saw him there again today.
I wish to God, he’d go away.”

Ogden Nash

I’m reading a book called “The Invisible Children,” about the hundreds of thousands of kids who wend their way through the Juvenile Justice System in our country. Call them “wards of the court.” Or foster kids or, more harshly, “throw away kids.” They are all around us but we don’t “see” them.

I have had quite a bit of experience with kids in this situation. Many of them, finding themselves rejected by the only parents they have ever known, are in shock. They yearn to be re-united with the very parents who abused them; they can’t help it. Their very identity is at stake.

For some reason, when I think of these invisible kids, I find the comical little verse of Ogden Nash going through my head. “Yesterday upon a stair, I saw a man who wasn’t there. I saw him there again today. I wish to God, he’d go away.”

We see our throwaway kids too, but we turn our heads away and pretend they are not there. Then we see them again “on the stair” and to be honest, we are irritated. We wish they would go away. For some of us, their very presence makes us feel guilty. We get defensive and tell ourselves that we are doing our best. These kids are fed and clothed. A mattress company gives them shoes or coats, the local civic organization gives them Christmas gifts. What’s the problem?

The problem is, and deep down we all know it, is that providing food and clothes and a basic education for kids traumatized by parental abuse and neglect is not enough.

The mental health issues faced by traumatized kids are not that dissimilar to the problems faced by our military men and women returning from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. We can choose to put a label like PTSD on them or no. The fact remains; many of the abandoned kids who live among us have been profoundly scarred. They think that is their fault that they have been taken from their abusive or neglectful parents. They blame themselves for becoming foster kids.

We need to really SEE these kids; put ourselves in their tennis shoes. It is not their fault that they find themselves in foster care. And, like the man on the stair, wishing they would go away will not make it happen.