Serving on the board of Immerse AR really is such a privilege, because it allows me to be constantly reminded of the real needs around me. Of the crisis. Of the heartache. Of the children and young adults who loose their families and never find a new one.
Wednesday took me to my own church for a luncheon celebrating graduating seniors who are in foster care. I got to help set up and serve the food, and I got to observe with my eyes and ears and heart. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Each of these kids had already reached a major milestone that, statistically speaking, they were less likely to achieve than their peers who have never brushed up against the foster care system. Celebrating and honoring that achievement took front and center at the luncheon.
The room was filled with advocates for them, and in some cases, foster families who have helped see them through. There were tears and joy and lots of extra rolls passed around those tables. In many ways, it echoed an average graduation experience.
But, then the keynote speaker took the stage, and she stopped me in the middle of my extra creamy, mass-produced mashed potatoes. She was 24. She grew up in foster care. She is now working in the system and advocating on behalf of children. She started her time on stage with slam poetry, and I wish that I had video of it, because her voice rising and falling in that unusual cadence sent chills straight through me.
As she spoke of her life and her experiences, one of the quotes that stuck with me was, "I was given soup, but I was given no spoon. So I ate my soup with a fork."
She figured out a way to do something that should be impossible. After the poetry concluded, she addressed this idea again. "I ate my soup with a fork, and you will too." As she pointed out, most kids are given spoons and some are even given silver spoons. The way of life is paved for them by a loving family who set them up for success. That did not exist in her life with her many foster placements, so she found her metaphorical fork and made a way.
She spoke of God and love and finding a support system to help bolster her journey, but she had to find her way to those things. No one led the way.
I was given a spoon and then some on my journey, and I am certainly trying to do the same for my own children. This week has been a good reminder that parenting is challenging, and I get it wrong seemingly all the time. But I'm engaged and trying, and by God's grace, I love my children and get the chance to raise them. I'm so thankful.
But I'm also so thankful to go and be reminded that so many children do not receive such benefits, and they are just as precious in God's sight as my own. Serving in a tiny way on Wednesday showed me more of how God loves each person he creates and wants so much for them and how it is a joy and privilege to play a little role in that.
(If you want to support the work that Immerse does with former foster youth, click here!)