I am taking a much-needed break right now from Camp Kid -- Fellow Traveler is asleep, while The Kid, our former neighbor, is playing on the guest-room computer.
We are having the time of our lives making this a great weekend for our young guest, who comes from a "home" that isn't in any real sense of the word. I find my emotions swinging wildly between the joy of helping him have fun and real anger toward both his utterly incompetent parents and a system that fails him and his siblings again and again and again.
Sometimes I have to keep from crying. Today, rained out of our trout farm adventure, I whipped up an indoor picnic meal with crispy chicken, a couple of homemade salads and strawberry shortcake. Fellow Traveler asked The Kid if he wanted to eat casual in the living room or eat in the dining room; when he indicated the latter, she asked, "Do you ever eat meals at a table with the rest of your family?" and he said, "Never." For him just eating and conversing at table is a special event. Just living in a normal household -- one with a modicum of cleanliness, where adults care for one another and for him, where there's no fighting or drugging or dysfunction or strange adults crashing on the living room sofa on any given night, is an exotic treat for him. And he's such a polite kid; he picks up after himself and does chores and asks what he can do to help.
It breaks my heart to see how smart this kid is, yet how behind he is scholastically because of his parents' gypsy-like lifestyle -- he told us they've moved at least 15 times that he can remember, just in this state -- and their lack of support for his education. He's great with numbers, but can barely read; he wants to play on the computer but needs one of us to translate the simplest sentences and instructions.
A social worker friend of mine who works with the aging once told me, "I could never do child social work. I'd want to just carry a gun with me into the field and shoot the kids' parents. Or I'd wind up shooting myself."
I know the feeling. Frankly, right now it's impossible for me to even attempt thinking of this child's sperm-and-egg donors as part of "the least of these" I'm called to care about. I want to dope-slap them and scream in their ears, What the **** do you think you're doing? What in the hell is the matter with you?