This is the last part of a 3 part series about our first experience with Safe Families. We hosted of a 5-year-old homeless boy named Mike for 10 days.
See part 1 here and part 2 here.
August 7th – Wednesday
A good morning and afternoon. I’ve been prepping Mike for going back to the street.
(Oh, how it pains me to say that.)
I’m so sad for him.
He was singing to himself today, “I’m not coming back – I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I’ve been trying to encourage Mike to talk to his parents about finding help and shelter. But I really don’t think that his parents want to get off the street. It just stinks that Mike and Sarah have to suffer.
We have decided to send the kids back with rolling backpacks to hold their things – the clothes we bought them, multi vitamins, Band-Aids, Neosporin, a good jacket and snacks.
Mike now eats healthy food at dinner fresh raw spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots. I hope that he will want to eat healthy food after he leaves here. I don’t know why I think it’s so important… because there are probably so many bigger problems he’ll have to face in a few days.
Like having food at all.
(He fell asleep during his 2 hour haircut so I held his head.)
He started to hit himself again today. Which he hasn’t done since the first few days. I feel his behavior is regressing… like he is looking for an angry reaction from me again. Like he wants me to get angry and push him away, so when he leaves he can justify it. I told him he had permission to hit himself if he wanted to. I feel like sometimes if kids have permission to do something, it isn’t as fun to do it. He said, “I don’t want to do that, it will hurt.”
I know he is sad about leaving. When he asks or it comes up he shakes his head no and when I ask what he’s saying no to he says, “nothing.” I think he loves his parents but wishes they were different: providing for him, having a place to live and food to eat.
I feel like kids see the best in people.
That’s what’s so wonderful about them.
After dinner we played backyard baseball because that’s his favorite. Tomorrow is his last full day/night with us. I see him being so intentionally mean to the big kids. But I also see his compassion toward the little kids. I have a feeling he is the main care taker for Sarah while they are on the street. Even though he is acting out, I’m trying to affirm him as often as I can.
But I’m tired and I can’t say that I won’t be relieved when he is gone.
And that makes me sad too.
August 8th – Thursday
As much as I hate to write it, I’m looking forward to getting back into a “normal” routine.
Mike had the worst time today. He’s acting out and I’m beginning to think it wasn’t the best idea to tell him he’s going back with his parents.
Tonight we had Life Group (our small group at church) and we spent the whole time praying for Mike.
It was powerful.
Our friend played the guitar for worship.
Which was rad.
Then we surrounded him, and prayed for all aspects of his life.
There were tears all around.
He was so calm while we were praying for him and this gave me a peace. But I really don’t want him to go back to the street.
This is where I think ultimate trust in God’s plan should be.
But I’m not really feeling it.
What I’m feeling is that Mike and Sarah should be put in a stable home (probably a family with no kids of their own) while their parents get their sh%* together.
If their parents can get their sh%*.
What I’m feeling is that I can make a better plan for Mike and Sarah’s lives.
What I’m feeling is that there if something doesn’t change in their situation, the children will be hurt.
And that’s what I’m feeling.
August 9th – Friday
The plan for the day was for the kids to go to the Summer Day Camp, and after camp we would all go out to lunch somewhere with a play area so they would have plenty of food in their bellies, then take the kids to Olive Crest for the director to take them back to their parents.
On the street.
My emotions are all over the place.
Part of me wants to make him a Lawson – we can keep him and pour into his life. It would be rough but I think we could do it. The other part of me wants to kick him to the curb and get on with my life. How selfish.
While the kids were at Summer Day Camp, we found out that Safe Families hasn’t been able to get in contact with Debbie. She would’t call back or pick up her phone. So the whole morning we weren’t sure if there would actually be a drop off. Finally at around 1pm Debbie called Safe Families and they arranged a meeting place. BUT Safe Families didn’t know she was in Santa Monica… they thought she was in Long Beach. Luckily they were able to arrange for the longer drive.
I understand why Mike and Sarah didn’t care if they talked with their mom. She is a clanging cymbal. She tells them she loves them and misses them but she doesn’t show them. And I think Debbie and her husband are full of broken promises.
Kids are smart.
One one car ride this week Mike was telling Brad that his parents told him that soon they were going to buy a house, and get him a bike, and lots of toys and a big TV… etc. But that hasn’t happened. It would be hard for a child to believe anything their parents tell them, if so much of what they say never happens.
The other host mom and I packed the rolling backpacks with all their new clothes, a kids Bible, snacks, multi vitamins, Band-Aids and Neosporin. I had about 10 photos printed of each child and attached them too a binder ring (light weight). On the back I wrote an affirmation or memory about the photo. “You are handsome… you are good at playing baseball… You have a silly sense of humor that everyone loves…”
We gave hugs, said goodbye then loaded the kids into the car.
The car was driving away and Mike was yelling, “I want to stay with you!!” over and over while reaching his arms out the window toward us.
And just like that, our first Safe Families hosting was over.
So there was my journal from over a month ago.
It’s exactly what I was thinking, while we were going through the hosting.
The days after this hosting, I wasn’t sure if we would/could do it again. Now, time has passed, and the stressful days don’t seem nearly as intense as they felt in the moment.
But isn’t that life?
Tess likes to list our family member’s names, often Mike’s name is in the mix. What a perfect picture of the Christian Life. In a small way Mike has been adopted into our family. He has truly helped to shape our family’s perspective.
This is what it’s all about. Stepping out and stepping up.
Saying yes, when people say you’re crazy.
In fact, a lot of people have told me that hosting Mike was a Big Thing.
And I’m not discounting that, but it really was a collection of Small Things – I made one more sandwich at lunch, I tucked one more kiddo into bed, and read one more nighttime story. And yes, I was breaking up one more fight a day (at least), we had one more spot taken in our car, and everything took one-more-person-longer to get completed,
And that wasn’t easy.
Now, I’m asking myself the purpose of this post.
Was it for me to remember this experience?… um… nope. I already have it written in my journal. (paper… remember that stuff?)
So maybe it’s to share a compelling story? …um…kinda yes… I think it’s a story worth sharing.
But that’s not totally it either.
The purpose is to convey a message.
”What’s the message?” (you ask)
Well, I hope that after reading this series you would think, “Wow, we could do that.”
”Say what!??!?! (you’re thinking) Kara Noel, Mike was telling your wee children about the Halloween movies, and you had to buy him a new wardrobe AND (the kicker) he gave you lice!!!!”
And my response is – and God has never been more real to me AND my children, my little prayers have never felt more impactful, we got to tangibly show our children (our neighbors and strangers) what it means to be “all in” for Jesus.
AND (the kicker) even if the 10 days was some of the worst in my life (which it wasn’t), we get to be a part of Mike’s story forever.
And he is a part of ours.
MIKE UPDATE: We had a meeting with the Safe Families staff to hear what happened at the drop-off. They said the kids and mom seemed genuinely happy to see each other, and I think that’s really great! Debbie also showed them the blanket where they live, and I think that’s not great. Debbie hasn’t reached out for more help from Safe Families.
BUT the Lawsons are praying for Mike, God’s precious son – praying for his protection, his choices, and his future.
Mike’s story isn’t done yet.
Maybe we’ll know the end this side of heaven.
Or maybe heaven will be a joyful reunion.
Either way, I’m waiting.