Last night I was in my local grocery store. I will admit I wasn't in the best mood. My husband and I had gotten into an argument earlier. I had one child having a melt down because she felt like she had not had her fair share of one on one time, and I was just outright tired.
When I got up to the check out lane, I tried to pick the shortest line and was hoping to just get out and get home. I was in my own little world. Do I have all my coupons? Did I get everything on my list? Praying I did not go over my grocery budget and so on. I did smile at the cashier because I know so many times they get people who are rude and mean and don't treat them like they exist.
I was still filling up the belt when I heard the cashier say, “What is Foster Hope?” I had to stop and think for a minute and realize I was wearing my Foster Hope shirt for Children's Lantern. I looked up at her, and she had a very cautious look on her face. I explained to her what we do and that my husband and I were the Foster Care Coordinators and foster parents.
Slowly, I saw the look on her face melt away. She then began telling me that she had been in foster care for 4 years. That she had been separated from her 3 older siblings, but she got placed with her 2 year old brother. She said she was almost 5 years old, and she went to her foster mom’s house in just a nightgown. She told me her foster mom had taken her and her brother out and bought them brand new clothes and how grateful, even at 5, she felt for that. She said her foster mom had fought like crazy to keep her and her brother together and for the system to not move them around but leave them with her because they needed the stability.
She then went on to tell me how, over the years, people had been very cruel to her. Saying things to her like, "What did you do to be put into foster care?" She looked at me and said, “People are crazy.”
I said, “I agree.”
She said, “I told them, what do you mean what did I do? I was only 5 years old.” She said that, even after she had been adopted, people would say things to her like, “Oh your adopted?” Like it was something awful.
Then they started criticizing her mom. People told her mom she was a bad mom, and why did she even bother adopting ‘those kinds of kids’? They said that she had wasted her time, and that she had taken on too many since there were seven of them :( She said that her older brother had become a drug addict, and he had things in his life that he just couldn't seem to overcome. She said, “We weren't a perfect family, but it was a good Christian family.” And she was grateful for being in it. Her parents had raised her the very best they could.
I looked at her and said, “No family is perfect, not one.” And she smiled. I told her we too had adopted 2 boys from foster care and had 5 children.
She told me how she was proving every single person wrong who said she wouldn't make it, that she had no hope. She said, “I am going to college, and I am going to open a day care one day just for foster kids.”
I know for a fact that God placed me in her line for that very conversation. I was overwhelmed, on the verge of tears and wanted to grab a hold of her and hug her. But I didn't want to embarrass her. As I went to walk away, I told her how proud I was of her. I told her to not believe what people say because she was so much more than people knew. She looked at me and thanked me and then did something that shocked me. She said to me, “I want to thank you for being a foster mom from all of us kids. We need you. Your job is important.” I was speechless. I did the only thing I could think of and said thank you.
As I walked out to my van speechless and wheels turning, I looked at Shawn and said, “That right there is why we foster.“
I just wanted to remind you foster parents out there. WHAT YOU DO IS VERY IMPORTANT! Don't give up. Lives are forever being changed by what you do.
--Mandy Keegan, Foster Care Coordinator