Sometimes things hit you in a soft spot. It’s not that they hurt it more’s that they wake you up. They hit you, bounce off, but leave their mark. I’m not much of a lyrical writer but it’s not lost on me that the image that comes to mind is like a drop of water in a pond that continues to ripple outward. Volunteering at the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery yesterday was that kind of hit. I just have to share.
This is not meant at all to be a Christmas downer. For those of you, like me, who worry that it will be, I will skip to the good news. Of the 16 or so kids that were at the nursery yesterday, about five of them went home yesterday. I’m sure a few more are going home today. More good news: the kids are well-cared for. They seem happy, for the most part, when they are occupied. And the staff is wonderful. One of the loveliest things I heard there yesterday (and I haven’t been there for a while as a result of my work life and my life-life having reared up in the past few months, leaving me less time to volunteer) was when one of the staff said that she would have taken the children outside to play, despite the cold, just as she would her own child. I loved that. That’s the vibe. These aren’t some random bunch of kids. These are our kids, from the community, that we all pitch in to help through the rough spots. Especially the holiday rough spots. And for better or worse, we give them the benefits of our parenting best practices when it comes to making decisions about their welfare. You gotta love that. That and and when I put one of my little charges down for her nap, she asked me to read Goodnight Moon. (And although reading this is not sad, reading the words aloud did almost make me bawl remembering how I read the same words to Sam when he was merely a bundle of blankets in my arms.)
The part that makes me a little sad is coming up. I’ll try to get through it quickly. I had seen many of these kids before. In my years of volunteering, I had seen several of these children at different ages — three, then four; five, now many of them six years old. As I looked across the lunch room, I worried about what will happen for these kids at age seven — when they age out of the crisis nursery. Where do they go then? What do their parents do when they need support but can’t some here? I can’t help it because I do see them as our kids and I can’t stop worrying about them simply because they turn seven. I have no answers for this, but hope that 2014 is a good year for them and their families. And I hope they find the support they need to keep their families healthy and happy.
I want to thank several friends who reminded me of the real value of volunteering during the holidays (and every day). You know who you are Amy, Eileen and Vicki. And I hope this holiday and 2014 finds us grateful and aware and remembering the important stuff. Love to all my friends this holiday season.