“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”*

December 13, 2011

Life is a balancing act here. And I don’t just mean ‘balance’ like the family of four that included a dangling infant I saw crammed on one little motorcycle today. It is a fragile toeing of the line that runs almost invisibly between realism and pessimism.

My social work experience, brief and painful as it was, equipped me with a world of practical knowledge. The dynamics and implications I learned about all types of abuse are scary but useful, especially here. But what I have gained has also filled me with cynicism, and many days, it is a struggle to pursue ministry without instinctively expecting the worst and still maintain a realistic vision.

When we first formulated a plan to help the Baez family, I was excited and encouraged to see a whole team of people willing to actively invest in the children. But I was also wary. Life is complicated and things rarely turn out as expected or intended. As evidenced in my DV shelter case load—I managed upwards of sixty cases over a year and a half and had maybe two successes—overarching “triumph” is as rare as a pink diamond.

I could already list off all the ugly things we could and probably would encounter once we started getting closer to the children–physical abuse, molestation, sex, prostitution, mental illness, drug and alcohol problems, starvation. In the midst of all worst case scenarios, my thought was that if we could prevent just one [more] Baez girl from becoming prematurely pregnant, I would consider it a success. I was saddened by my own low expectations, but at the same time, I knew they were every bit realistic.

A few days ago, it was confirmed that V has been (and for all we know, continues to be) sexually abused**. The gasps of shock were audible, but my voice was not among them. I knew it from the very beginning. From the way she acts, the way she talks, the glaze in her eyes. Nothing shouts trauma like a sleazy, alcoholic father and a seven-year-old who wets the bed every night. It killed me that something like child molestation didn’t come as a surprise, and it pained me even more that cycnicism was revealing itself as real life. Pessimism was winning and I defaulted to wanting a different occupation (seriously, something not soul-sucking for once?).

I read this quote recently: “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” (Mary Anne Radmacher) I am slowly learning that this is often the case with hope as well. Sometimes hope is not so much expecting an amazing, stable couple to come and whisk the family out of their toxic environment and raise the kids to handily shrug off the dark forces that be and become famous world changers.

Sometimes hope is celebrating small successes as, well, successes, and waking up each morning, despite what happened the day before, to keep celebrating. Celebrating confidence that the Baez kids will know love in this period of their lives. Celebrating freshly painted walls in a crumbling, odor-filled shack. Celebrating a stain scrubbed out of a torn pair of pants. Celebrating the fact that at the very least the kids ate lunch today.

This is balance. This is hope. This is making a difference.

*Oscar Wilde
**Unfortunately, there is not a lot we can do. I am hoping to get her into counseling next year. I’ll be writing more about that soon. In the meantime, press on in your prayers for this family.
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One Response to ““We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”*”

  1. Carla Says:

    Will def be praying. And I think your last paragraph is absolutely right. It’s in the seemingly “little” victories that big changes are birthed from. For me, it was seeing the smiles on the women who were abandoned by their families at a hospital in Russia — and knowing in the moment, they knew love.
    And if all else fails, with God, nothing is impossible!

    As a sidenote Lauren, you’ve got such a great way with words — powerful and inspiring. [=


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