I didn’t post a sibling picture yesterday on Facebook. Sometimes these things are complicated. I lost my little brother to cancer when he was just 35 years old. It will be TWENTY years next month. How odd time is. But sometimes it is thorny to post things. I know I am not the only one.
It reminded me of how complicated people’s lives are. And often things that are done with good intent cause unintentional harm. I have been thinking a lot about what my “ministry” is around foster care and adoption and childhood trauma and race, and the phrase that keeps coming back to me is serving the “well-intentioned but uninformed”. A few weeks ago, my youngest had just moved back home and was so excited to re-join his youth group. This move home coincided with the exact weekend of the California lock down and the church pivoted beautifully to a Zoom youth group. The leaders shouted excitedly as each kid logged in. The first game was a virtual scavenger hunt. “Go find a shoe, go find a piece of fruit”. A fun idea that had him running all over the house, slipping down the hallway in socks that were about 3 days late from needing to be thrown in the hamper. But then it came, “Go get a baby picture”, umm ok……we don’t have one of those (and never will). He looked at me and just shrugged. Next, “go get your dad to say hi”, ummm ok….we don’t have one of those either. He anxiously laughed into the computer, looked at me and shrugged again. He continued to play but hasn’t been back since. When I asked him why he didn’t want to log in the following week he said, “They don’t see me”. Now I know some of this is just the result of a big group of middle-schoolers all clamoring for attention online, but I can’t help but think if it was also something else. And I can’t help but think that maybe there was another kid on there who didn’t have a dad with them or for some reason didn’t have a baby picture. Well-intentioned but uniformed.
For those of you who are paying attention, and how can we not, this virus is changing our lives in a myriad of ways. Some good (we actually had TWO dinners where everyone ate the same thing, at the same time, in the same place). This, in our house, is the equivalent of a small miracle. Desean is actually catching up in math. He is benefitting from a very loose start time for school and focused, short learning times. Kahn Academy should win some prize for this. Facebook has become enjoyable again as a place to connect with people and for the most part the politics have subsided. I did see one post about the stimulus checks. A friend forwarded a comment stating, “Maybe the gov’t. should stop taking taxes out of working people’s checks for the remainder of the year instead of giving money to people who don’t work”. It took every ounce of strength for me not to type a response. “I will be getting a check. I have three kids, I work two jobs (one of which has been furloughed for now) and this check will help me pay my mortgage next month”. Well-intentioned (?) but uninformed.
And of course, there have been the tougher things. Three boys in a semi-small house, one being an adult creates some tension but honestly, the other small sacrifices that I could complain about really are insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Because I can’t help but think about all the rest of life that is going on. On top of not having work and the social isolation and the fear of running out of Clorox wipes people still have cancer, pets are having to be put down (sorry Shannon and George), parents are fighting over custody, people are fighting “regular” illnesses. And there are households FULL of people who were fighting poverty even before this. On any given day when this quarantine is pushing your last nerve, take a breath and think about the impact this is having on our foster children. There are kids in foster care who are no longer able to have visits with their bio parents or siblings. Who, having come from trauma, are having a terrible time regulating with all the uncertainty. There are foster parents who are taking in kids who have nowhere else to go. Our social workers and foster parents are among the heroes right now, supporting some of our most vulnerable.
I would also be fully remiss not to write about the implications of race throughout this pandemic. I read another post and then see an article about how black men are fearful to wear homemade masks in public. Think about it and be honest, a dark-skinned man with a bandana tied around his face walking into a store does not necessarily conjure up feelings of peace. Consciously or unconsciously, we have a bias. I thought about it when going to the store with my middle child. Hoodie up, mask on his face, dark skin. Type “black men, homemade masks” into your google search bar if this doesn’t make sense to you or isn’t part of your world. As tweeter Aaron Thomas put it, “I don’t feel safe wearing a handkerchief or something else that isn’t CLEARLY a protective mask covering my face to the store because I am a Black man living in this world. I want to stay alive, but I also want to stay alive”. Let that sink in. On top of this, I can’t even begin to talk about the complex reasons black people are dying at much higher rates from Covid-19 than white people. Austin Channing Brown wrote a great blog post on the reality of systemic racial injustice that is exacerbated right now for people of color. She also links to this article which you shouldn’t read if you would prefer to avoid thinking about such things. I hear off-the-cuff comments about these things from those I love. Put these things together. Well-intentioned but uninformed.
So, here we are as we finish up Easter week, the holiest of weeks for Christianity that includes Passover (both holidays celebrating the power of life) and celebrating the life of Jesus who was the perfect example of serving people. An Easter week that we will all look back on as that Easter. And in my intention to keep thinking about how Jesus would respond, the verse that keeps popping into my head is Matthew 25:40. “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ I am not sure why, but I think I want to remember to keep my petty complaining to myself and remember how life is exponentially tougher for so many others. And this time too can be an opportunity for me to get just a little bit more informed.