Last week, I tucked my gorgeous seven-year-old daughter into bed and said, "Sweetie, I have something important to tell you."
As she always does, she looked at me with eyes open wide, ready to drink in whatever I told her. All her life I have been there for her -- protecting, teaching, nourishing, guiding. It's what any mom would do, and I never thought I did it particularly better or worse than others. Never, until now.
"Honey, I heard today about some kids who aren't as lucky as you," I told my daughter. She blinked, listening. "Some kids don't have parents who take care of them."
"Some kids ..." she started in, as she always does, processing what I tell her by rephrasing it. "Some kids' parents don't take care of them because they don't have enough money.
"That's true," I said, sadly. "But that's not what I mean. Some kids' parents don't take care of them because they don't want to, or they don't know how." It was difficult to admit this to her. How could I explain? "They neglect their kids, don't clean up after them, don't feed them, don't teach them or provide for them. Sometimes they might even hurt their kids."
I could see that this didn't make sense to her, but she was willing to believe me. "I just want you to know how lucky you are, sweetie," I explained. "And those kids that don't have parents who take care of them, we're giving them something to let them know they matter." I gave her a kiss and turned out the light.
Those kids are in the care of the court, and they are cared for by CASA -- Court Appointed Special Advocates. A trained volunteer represents the child's interests as they move through the foster care system, towards reunification, adoption, or another permanent placement.
I know about them because the students in my handcrafting class have decided to partner with the local branch, CASA of the 20th Judicial District. We have a few personal details about a few of their clients -- not enough to invade their privacy, but just enough to make something for each of them that fits their needs and taste. A hat, a scarf, a toy. Made especially for them, from us.
Why? Because these kids are the future of my community. They will live in my town, go to school with my kids, maybe even attend my university if they're lucky. If they're not lucky, they will work a few miles away from me in a minimum-wage job ... or not, if they're really not lucky. They will have kids, and if someone doesn't show them love and recognize their true worth, they will abuse and neglect those kids in their turn, and the cycle will continue.
But if a few of us invest time and energy -- material and spiritual -- into these kids, they have a chance. They have had a bad break to start out. Their parents didn't deserve them. But that's no reason to throw them away or just let the chips fall where they may. Our efforts can change things for them -- maybe even in them.
At the end of the semester, we're going to hold a sale on campus. It's buy one, give one -- like Tom's Shoes. A one-of-a-kind handcrafted accessory for you, a made-to-order gift of warmth for them. In the meantime, we're asking everyone with needles, hooks, and yarn -- or anyone who wants to learn how to wield them -- to join us. Craftin' for CASA: October 18, 1:30-2:30 pm, on the steps of the Chapel on the UCA campus. Everyone's welcome. Spread the word.