It cut. Deep. The hurt more than she had met before. Slicing, ragged, the dissection impersonal and careless. Inflicted without remorse. Not even a shred. It was as though she did not exist, was of no value, just a useless toy to be played with, abused, and tossed away. The wounds would not be forgotten. No, these would leave an indelible mar upon her soul, forever. So horrific that she herself would insulate herself from them, burying them so deeply, training her mind to forget, to suppress, to deny such things had ever happened to her. Survival demanded so. What more could a six year old do. It was all too bewildering . . .
Andrea Jones* knew she had lived a troubled life. Moving from foster home to foster home, she was tired of not belonging anywhere. Yet at the same time, there was a sense of security that she could slip out of a threatening situation if need be. Her case worker truly was on her side, and knowing her past, was careful to place her in safe homes. Only once had she had to move because of a threat. That had opened a case against the foster couple, who were now in prison. Other homes she had grown out of age wise, too old for those wanting grade schoolers only. It seemed there was always something. Andrea had learned one sure thing – nothing was for certain.
Middle school had proven the same. The kids there were very cliquish, bullying not uncommon, from the subtle insults and put-downs to the outright public kinds of harassments meant to belittle and embarrass. Being a foster kid was a liability in her school. And she was among the very few. Perhaps her stubborn will to survive kept her going, and her love for writing and art. She could pour out her confusion and hurt in constructive ways, rather than hurting herself or others.
There was something in Andrea she herself did not understand, that pushed her to keep on. Excelling in school she won full scholarships to study art abroad, and with the help of her case worker, who had become a good friend and mentor, found a supportive community in her new country. It would be there she would begin the long process of true healing.
Several blocks away from the apartment Andrea occupied was a Children’s Home. Founded by a reputable charitable organization Andrea had heard about in the States, she was drawn to it. And to the laughter of children playing in the yard. She had always loved kids, and being around them. She had a tender heart especially for those who seemed withdrawn or isolated. It was as though she could read their body language, could hear their spirit’s whispers and cries, hear the hurt that was hidden inside. It resonated with her own spirit, like tuning forks in synchronized vibration. Art, with a minor in teaching, were her avenues of study, and the Children’s Home drew her like a bee to the honey comb.
Andrea war readily welcomed into the Children Home’s volunteer group. The staff were delighted with her credentials and offering to help. Her combination of a tender heart, willingness to give, and a gift of teaching art would fill a much needed place in the services offered to the children. Andrea felt in a strange sort of way that she had found a home there as well. Family. She had found family who truly needed her.
Six months passed. Andrea loved her classes at the University. She had taken Spanish throughout middle school and high school, and was very comfortable in her bilingual situation; both English and Spanish were used at the University and at the Children’s Home. As her experience with teaching the children continued, so did clarity come that she truly loved working with school-aged children. It mattered not the grade level. She realized her calling was in this area of sharing her art. Little did she know the benefits she would receive as well.
It all began one winter’s day when Andrea was cleaning the art room at the Children’s Home, Hogar del Corazo’n, Home of the Heart. Maria, a petite third grade girl wandered in with a stack of papers in her hand. “Miss Andrea?” she asked in faltering English. “May I speak with you?” “Of course, of course, Maria! Please come in. What can I help you with?” Maria approached Andrea slowly, and shyly handed her the stack of papers. “What are these?” asked Andrea softly. “Some pictures I have been keeping since I came here,” answered Maria. “I wanted to show them to you. I thought maybe you could help me know what to do with them.”
Andrea sat next to Maria at one of the painting tables. As she set the pictures one by one on the table she was stunned at what she saw . . . pictures drawn that took her back to her very own childhood, of things she herself had experienced. Things she had tried to forget. Things that this barely nine year old child had drawn. “Maria,” she gasped, “please tell me about these pictures. Are these your drawings?” “Yes, these are mine, Miss Andrea. And this is me before I came here. For some reason I thought maybe I should show them to you. They make me so sad. I don’t know what to do.” “You were right to show me, Maria, and they make me sad, too. I know how sad feels. We can find out what to do together.”
From her case worker’s help in the past, Andrea had no question the kind of help this child would need. This small opening into Maria’s heart was like the tip of a plow beginning to slice into the earth, turning over new ground, exposing hidden things to air and light. It was frightening, yet for this small child Andrea felt a rush of concern and protection, empathy and compassion, and a true desire to bring comfort to Maria as she journeyed through her grief. “I cannot believe the feelings this is stirring up inside of me,” she thought to herself. “It has been so many years. How could I still be feeling hurt from that mess from so long ago?” Perhaps this cutting open by the plow would yield a different result . . . perhaps steps towards true healing would occur as Andrea helped another to understand her own hurts. To comfort another with the comfort with which she herself had been comforted would in a strange and miraculous way bring freedom to her soul as well.
Isaiah 51:12a “I, even I, am He who comforts you.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
* The characters and places of this story are entirely fictitious and do not represent any known persons or places to the author.