I’m in the process of realizing a dream I’ve had in my heart the last four years. The dream of not being a selfish brat and trying to do something good for someone who could really use it. I’ve always known I live a charmed life.
Great family, great husband, great friends. The kind of head start in life that landed me a car, a college degree and living rent-free until I was 27. Never having to fear of long-term unemployment or having my power turned off. No “real” challenges in life.
I get it. Everyone has their demons and set backs in life and I do have mine, believe it or not. You can read about my biggest personal struggle here.
My point is, I haven’t had to triumph over dire circumstances, pull myself up by the boot-straps or put on my “big girl panties” to get where I am today. There are times I wish I had, because it could only make me stronger, but let’s be honest, I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed with the life I have.
I recently went through an intensive training for a volunteer program with the Yolo County chapter of the organization CASA. CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” CASA works with the child welfare system, particularly kids in foster care, to hook them up with qualified, background checked community advocates to not only mentor them, but to help represent their best interests in court. It combines the mentor-ship aspect of Big Brothers Big Sisters, with the legal power, confidentiality constraints and rights of a social worker. The court actually signs a court order giving me legal access to the files of my CASA child.
Basically my job is to spend some personal time with my CASA child, figure out what is working and not working in her life, assess what is in her best interest within the power of the court and advocate for it. Meanwhile, hopefully I can form a trust relationship with her and offer some valuable insight on growing up to become a happy, successful and productive member of society. No big deal right? Riiiiight……
I met my CASA child Monday night for the first time. I will maintain the mandated strict confidentiality with her personal details and history, but I’ll say this: This girl hasn’t had it and will never have it easy. She will have to overcome and work for everything. So how can I relate or ever have an impact? Why should she trust me or care what I think? I’ve asked myself this question a thousand times since signing up for the program.
I came to this conclusion: It isn’t about being about to relate, or having the right thing to say or do.
It is about love.
This girl needs pure, unconditional love. Love that shows up when it says it is going to. Love that offer selfless advice and guidance. Love that listens and doesn’t want anything. Love that doesn’t take advantage of her when she is weak and use her to its advantage. Love that offers a positive path to follow and gives her a choice. Love that believes in her and cheers her on. Love that picks her up when she is down instead of kicking her.
As my mom likes to say, “I have more love and time than money, so I’ll give what I have.”
I know that we are fighting an uphill battle. The world is not kind to those who start at the bottom. But I’m positive that this girl is strong, smart and capable of doing whatever she wants to do, circumstances be damned. I’m also positive that although I set out to change her life, she is going to change mine.
I can’t wait.