As always, since taking foster children into the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, I am so limited by matters of confidentiality, that I can hardly say anything. I must speak only in the vaguest of terms. But I will say this much, I am speaking from personal experience from more than one incident, and I am talking about toddler children too young to speak.
When a child comes to live at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners, it is our expectation, and our usual result, that the child soon learns to trust us and begin to thrive. Visitors in this home often remark about the children in just that regard. This is one of those times when talking about my work involves a bit of bragging – thus I mute my identity. I don’t seek personal credit for my reputation by telling this, and so I use a pseudonym. But I want to share an important observation, one I hope you see too.
These children, especially the really young ones, come to this home bewildered. Older ones come jaded, but young ones face the sudden loss of what they knew of as HOME (which usually was abusive and/or neglectful), and the significant people in their lives (Mom and Mom’s new boyfriend – or whoever), and they get passed off to medical professionals, CPS professionals, and often enough law enforcement professionals – the passing off of which might last a few days, and then the nice agency lady drops this bewildered child off at our house, where we greet them warmly and yet try to give them personal space to explore their new environs.
But these little people quickly need diaper changes, and before bed, there will be bath time. And I, as a man with a gruff voice and a beard, take these duties on personally – serving a fearful person I just met in the most personal and intimate parts of daily life.
I am NOT this kid’s mom.
But I go where angels fear to tread.
There is a trembling moment there as the water in the tub starts running. Usually Mrs. Agent X is nearby preparing the other rug rats to join us, and she may pop in and out on this scene too. The eyes full of fear as the diaper comes off and the water starts to rise.
I speak reassuringly in as soft a voice as I can. I begin to win the trust. And it happens. It really happens. The child crosses a gulf of fear and seems to lean into my hands for support.
“My hands”. Did I really just say that?
I must take off my shoes, in this place, because I am on Holy Ground.
They aren’t my hands anymore. Heaven help me to be worthy of this, but Jesus is at work in my body, in my hands just then. I dare not take the credit or think I have engineered this.
This child’s whole life is dependent on the Agents X while they are here. This child will be fed, cleaned, groomed, and learn the routines. Those are the basics. This child will be celebrated, we will play, we will laugh, we will cheer this child on as he/she learns new things.
It is precious to behold. Life in the child comes alive. Healing begins. Trust is born. And it is all so very fragile that first night. So very intimate. So vulnerable.
I think something important happens in those moments that even us adults need. I don’t know how to break it down or what to say about it. But I think it is worth pondering. I want to live in a world where faith like that is honored and cared for and celebrated, and where I can share my vulnerability and rest assured that I am loved and celebrated as I learn the routines and as I am fed.
And if that is true for these little ones, and if it could be true for me too, then wouldn’t it be important to transfer some of this thinking to our ministry for the streets?