I was watching a leadership video and the guy on the screen pointed and asked:
“What story do YOU want to tell?”
My immediate thought was: “Not mine.”
My story is boring: White girl, raised in upper-middle-class neighborhood. My life got slightly more interesting when I turned 12. That was when my parents sat my sisters and me down to vote on whether or not to have foster kids or have foreign exchange students.
We voted for foster kids. Unanimously. I am really not even certain why they decided to be foster parents at all. I have never asked.
I know I was kind of bratty until I turned 13. That was the year my parents finally got their foster care certification and I got my first-ever foster brother. From my memories, his arrival introduced me to a darker part of life with which I was unfamiliar.
It was the first time I can remember meeting someone who had been starved and brutalized. It was the first time I had someone in our house steal things from me, lie to me over and over.
It was the first time I ever felt really stupid for whining about having a jacket I thought was ugly. I hated that thing. It was not just red, it was RED! in a screaming sort of way. My new foster brother stole my ugly jacket to give it to his step-mother, the one that hurt him. He wanted to give her my ugly jacket so she would like him. He thought if she liked him, he could go home.
He continued to steal any and everything. He was an aspiring arsonist. I remember asking him, “WHY do you do this??!”
His answer: “Who cares?”
The mantra of parent-less, hurting children everywhere.
And so many times, my non-verbalized answer has been: Not me.
The story that I am telling, that I wish didn’t need to be told is the story of children without families. Stories of children who have been hurt. I prefer to ignore these stories.
But, there is no way to change atrocities I choose to be oblivious to.
The story, right now, is of human tragedy. And I hate it.
I often tell the story of my first foster brother. His story is not that different from other children who have been unnaturally removed from the custody of their parents:
These children need an adult to appropriately care for them.
And the majority of our population says, “Not me.”
The fact that a child would steal my supremely ugly jacket to barter with his step-mother for her affection broke my obnoxious, teenage attitude. My perspective was re-worked. Because whining about a red jacket in the presence of a an abused child IS stupid.
Life is not about my small, petty, first-world problems. It is not about a bigger house, car, or savings account. It is not about committee meetings where people discuss “easing the orphans’ plight” at some unplanned point in the future.
For me, life is about what I can do right now. It is about making a difference right now.
The story I pray for is the story of hope for hurting people. The story of redemption. The story of ALL the lonely being placed in families. The story of US understanding our responsibilities to one another and acting upon that understanding.
Because really, the story of human tragedy begins to change to triumph only when we all answer my foster brother’s simple question – “Who cares?” – with a very simple answer:
Christy Irons is a mother of eight. Five were adopted from foster care, two were adopted internationally.