Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Elvis and foster care

I grew up in a time before cell phones, and game machines, and being constantly attached to electronics. When we went on vacation and traveled from Iowa to California to visit friends, the highlight of the trip was counting the tumbleweeds in Texas.
My parents owned a car a lot like the one above. Ours was a dark red color. One summer my mom strapped in all three of us: me, My Genius Sister and My Genius Brother and took off for California. My dad traveled for work and he flew out to meet us there. (Yes, My Genius Mother drove all the way across the country, alone, without a cell phone. She's awesome!)
For entertainment we played the Elvis eight-track over and over (and over and over and over). I memorized the words to every single song.
I remember asking my mom what "the ghetto" was after hearing Elvis sing about it a few times. She did her best to describe things, but I really had to use my imagination. I was from a comfortable middle class home. My parents lived within their means. I had everything I needed and plenty of my wants. I tried to imagine what this ghetto thing was.
A couple months ago I decided it had been too long since I had listened to any music by Elvis. I broke out the iTunes gift card I had been given for Christmas and I purchased a "best of" album.

And this song came on:
As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
Cause if there's one thing that she don't need
It's another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don't you understand
The child needs a helping hand

Or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
Are we too blind to see,
Do we simply turn our heads
And look the other way

Well the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal
And he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
A young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car,
Tries to run, but he don't get far

And his mama cries
As a crowd gathers 'round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

As her young man dies,
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin',
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries

----

I burst into tears.

Ricky is my angry young man.

And I thank God I wasn't too blind to see he needed a helping hand.

I hope we can make a difference in his life. One that will help him see why he needs to continue making the good choices he makes now. Sometimes I worry. Ricky is still awfully angry.

"In the Ghetto" reinforced what my parents were teaching me as a young child. I knew when I was very little that it was up to me to make a difference. This song was originally titled "The Vicious Circle". I'm no saint. Sometimes I'm a pretty lousy parent. Sometimes I'm less than Christ-like in my thinking toward the bio family.

But I want to help break those vicious circles. And that's why I foster.

Please pray for Ricky today. We have court. I found out just last week that Ricky has been in foster care - or at least had CPS in his family's business - since he was only nine months old. "This" is all he knows really. Ricky barely understands his past. The report I received opened my eyes though and so many of his "family stories" now make so much more sense. They break my heart!! Nothing is going to change for Ricky today. The System has already given up on anything but Independent Living as his goal. But Ricky has a little brother who is five years younger. At age 12 I hope The System hasn't given up on him too.

As Ricky's mama, it really makes me cry. 



1 comment:

Annie said...

That song always touched my heart. I remember when my bios were younger we had occasion (it actually made sense at the time - driving from my daughter's dance academy to the bridge to Canada) to drive the entire length of Woodward Avenue in Detroit....or rather from Birmingham (a suburb where our family couldn't afford to rent a studio) to the innerest inner city. "Lock your doors, kids" kind of place. It made an enormous impact on me. You just see so much....it raised so many questions. You can see that the "good fortune" perpetuates itself - beautiful homes with happy families working in the yard or washing windows.....down to falling apart buildings where people sit on steps and throw their fast-food trash into the yard.

So glad Ricky had you to step in and keep him on the right path; knowing some of the people who foster here, it could so easily have gone just the opposite way.