Saturday, April 13, 2013

“There’s an ocean of tears before our happiness.”

It started with a Facebook message about falling into temptation and self-admission into a clinic in the centre of the city. I jokingly replied Addiction? What? Video games? There was no reply. A few days’ later I receive a telephone call from a social worker saying that she worked for the city and that João had indeed been admitted after a three day crack binge. I put the phone down and got in the car.

I knew that the last few months had not been easy for him. Each time I visited he was babysitting his two younger brothers when he should have been in school. His mother was out at work - a solid job in the local supermarket which she had maintained since she had moved the family from the stinky room next to the sewer in the favela (and João had been reintegrated) two years previously. Beer cans now littered the back yard and feces from their two dogs lay smeared in the unkempt front drive.

He never let-up that his difficulties had reached a peak, but peaked they had. His younger brother was locked out after one incident and then after a final argument when he was told to leave, leave he did with only the clothes on his back.

At first blush, the facility was much how I had imagined a state-run home for drug-addled street kids: mixed girls and boys, staff (and strangers passing by) giving the kids cigarettes (the justification being that the nicotine soothes the pain of a child’s recuperation from the more serious drugs they were taking. What century are we in?) and nothing much to do except the occasional trip to the local park or leisure centre (with internet!). As I sat and talked with João outside, I looked up and saw a condom which had been thrown from the upper storey and got lodged in the grooves of the plastic porch above us. Oh, the humanity.

Like someone recovering from a serious addiction, kids who return from homes (like ours) or institutions (like theirs) need to be accompanied long after their reintegration back into their families and wider society. I have been regularly visiting J because that’s what James 1:27 tells me to do, but reintegration is a slow and sensitive process, fraught with difficulties - akin to Alcoholics Anonymous’ way of living one day at a time. It is a balancing act where one shouldn’t interfere with the equilibrium of the family unit: encouraging them to walk on their own but at the same time providing a secure hand when needed.

Sometimes returning a child to his or her family feels a bit like carefully choosing a fruit or vegetable at the supermarket, only for the person at the checkout to weigh it and then hurl it unceremoniously into the bottom of a bag. When dealing with [often rebellious] street kids in extremely stressful family situations, it’s obviously never as straightforward as the analogy suggests, but the sentiment fits in most cases.

And invariably you start to think that you could have done better. That you - sorry, I - could have done something to avoid the current outcome. And as with many things, you can tell yourself that you’re doing your best, when you can do better than this. And I know the arguments about sovereignty and grace. And I know that I am not responsible for outcomes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our* God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. - James 1.27

"Unstained by the world" harder said then done I'm sure.
"Love killed a multitude of sins" for you, loving comes naturally. Definitely carry on using the love that God has placed within that big heart of yours.
And my goodness what a big heart it is.

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