Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We can do better

Volunteered again tonight.

[Big sigh]

I have a feeling that this place is going to be a source of endless frustration for me. I have all these opinions on how they could be doing things better. But who am I? I don't have children. I don't have a degree in anything child-related. I've never had a job involving children - unless you count babysitting in my teen years.

But I just can't help myself. I wonder WHY are they doing this? Why are they NOT doing that? And this is my blog so I am allowed to say whatever I want, right?

After snack time. I counted. There were 11 kids, 8 staff people and me. Holy Almost-a-one-to-one-ratio, Batman! What a great opportunity to give the kids some focused attention. Let's each grab one or two kids, sit with them, read to them, talk with them, color with them. They have plenty of group activities all day. Let's create just a little block of time in their day where they get the full attention one caring adult.


Let's sit them in front of a movie.


Just like last night.

And the night before.

And let's have the move be Mulan. And let's have the last scene that we show be the one where Mulan is being abandoned by her army buddies because they found out she was a girl. (A moment earlier they were going to kill her, but decided not to.) Let's watch all the people she cares about walking away and leaving her on a snowy mountaintop all by herself. Then let's shut off the TV. Sweet dreams kiddies!

Yes, it is a cartoon. And most of the kids are too young to fully comprehend the story. But I'll bet you they know scary when they see it. And sad - they certainly know what crying looks like.

So why?! Why even have movies that contain ANYTHING scary, slightly violent or with scenes of abandonment or sadness or bad things happening to vulnerable people? These kids have experienced loss in their lives. Some have witnessed or been victims of real violence. They've just been pulled from their homes and sent to to live with a bunch of strangers. They have no control over anything and they have no idea what is going to happen next. Their REAL lives are scary and sad.

Why can't this place be a true shelter from the storm - full of gentleness, safety and peace. A place where we deliberately filter out unnecessary images of violence and scariness. Where we wouldn't THINK of showing a movie that has any frightening content, even if it is a well known Disney cartoon. Where the only movies we show have fluffy bunnies singing the alphabet or a family of bears who take a vacation on a boat and have fun and SAFE adventures.

You cannot protect any child from every single scary or sad thing they might encounter in this world. And you shouldn't necessarily put them in a protective bubble so tight that they don't develop any resilience or learn how to cope with difficult situations.

But why don't we put a little more thought into the things that we CAN control with THESE children while they are temporarily in our care. These children are special. They need extra comfort, a little more nurturing of their fragile spirits, and lots and lots of gentleness and safety in their surroundings. We can and should do better.

It doesn't take a freaking genius to figure that out.

Even though it frustrates and upsets me, I still feel like I need to keep going back. Especially when it frustrates and upsets me, I feel like I need to keep going back.


Bethany said...

Amen sister.
Very well written and thought out and expressed. I got tense and angry just reading it. I am SO with you on all of it, esp the movie part. Kids are brilliant and sponges, and everything they see affects them. There are so many movies, shows with none of that stuff. So ridiculous.
I'm so glad you're there.
Keep on keeping on buddy.

Anne Leddy said...

Are there different kids every week? How long do they stay at the shelter? Do they have social workers to talk to the kids.
Concerned, Mom