Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tonight, I will tell you about a child...

Corner of a Big Painting by the Child
There is a little boy in this world and in my mind no one could compare, but at the same time I'm afraid that there are many like him--too many.

He's the one I've come to know.  He's the one I sit with on Saturday mornings as he explores creation through paint, through color, through clay.  This little boy has taught me more about resilience and hope than any other person I've encountered.  He has taught me more about strength and the impact of trauma than any life lesson I've ever experienced first hand.  He is young and he is vibrant.  He is troublesome and too much untamed energy.  He is creative, inspired and inspiring.

In briefest terms possible, according to Childhelp (a very user-friendly and accessible web-site), national child abuse statistics show that three million reports of child abuse are made each year.  This is in the United States alone.  They go on to state that many of these claims involve multiple children, almost doubling the figure to 5.8 million children in 2007 who were included in these reports.  Fifty-nine percent of reported child abuse is classified as neglect, almost eleven percent as physical abuse, seven and a half percent as sexual abuse.  Among the general statistics on the page are staggeringly grim percentage rates of the prevalence of child abuse in social issues such as teen pregnancy, drug use and violent crime.

This child that I know has suffered abuse at the hands of the people who were to have cared about him most--his mother and her boyfriend.  Now, really, I don't know the details and specifics of it other than that most of the abuse came from the boyfriend and that the mother did not step in.  Whether she partook in the actual physical abuse or not, I don't know.  This happened until the age of three.  He now lives with his grandparents who take extremely good care of him.  He is loved but in the wake of the catastrophic abuse that this child has suffered he is visibly impacted.

He's in therapy and at a Montessori School.  These have been hugely helpful for him.  I have seen a difference in him within the last year.   In class this child has trouble sitting still, he must be holding items and fidgeting.  He must be making noise.  He must be rocking back and forth or turning something over, or banging the table.  When asked direct questions he used to not answer, it's taken a year and now occasionally he'll answer.  Otherwise, he recedes inside of himself.  I've seen him speak up more when a general question is asked of the class.  As of this year I've watched him chime in more during story time.  

This child loves bugs.  He loves spiders.  He takes considerable care in deciding what to draw or sculpt before beginning and then puts it out on paper (and clay) with a care and detail that surpasses a lot of the other children.  His drawings stand out amongst the other children's creations.  Unfortunately, this is because of their tenor--dark, frightening, violent.  Over the last year also the anger in these pictures is simmering down.  When I first met him he drew two people/creatures next to each other with angered faces, razors and knives coming from where their arms used to be, machine guns from the other arms, fire.  Reds and blacks.  A year later his drawings are more tempered: scary bugs and plants with jaws that can chomp and crush, spewing poison at flies and other more innocent plants.  

Even so, just a few weeks ago each child was to create a book, whatever book they desired.  This boy created dark clouds, slowly parting (comic book style) and through the clouds a creepy little creature with glowing yellow eyes.  He came and he left.  And there was nothing more to it.  For me, it conjured a sense of ominous fear inducing creature coming...and going.

Dragon Carrying a Paper Clip by the Child
It's in the clay and the larger acrylic paintings that this boy's happier feelings seem to come out.  Little spider bugs, a jelly fish tile, a caterpillar, a dragon.  He could sit for hours creating his creatures from the clay and splattering paint on large canvas.

All of this has solidified in me the opinion that art is a universal healer of all hurts.  Of course, the Montessori School, the therapy, the love from his grandparents, the nurture he is receiving is all playing a role as well but to watch this child transform and express himself through art is so concretely visceral.  He is changing from the inner-most workings of his being.  And he is changing me.

Because of this child I am now certain that I want to pursue graduate education in Social Work.  I want to put in time working for CPS, working with foster children, neglected children, physically abused children to better the situation for little boys and girls like this one.  I'm certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if more people don't turn to organizations that help these children that more and more will fall through the cracks and become nothing more than statistics heard on the news or in blog posts like this one.  These children are so much more important than the number to which they become grouped.  My young friend is so much more than an eleven percent.

So, the point of this blog is to introduce you to this child as a representative of a much larger set of humans--not as a named child who lives in a specific city with a specific address.  He is one of so many others and for me he is irreplaceable.  The point of this blog is that I am angry and I am sad.   I cannot and will not come to terms with people who can do this to a child.  The child is innocent.  The child is an empty vessel and what we do to the children of our world alters the course of their reality in ways that an abuser is too cowardly to realize, too sick to acknowledge and/or care about.   The point of this entry is to voice my concern and that I am filled to the brim with hope for this child and others.  But also to voice that I am disheartened to know that there are so many children lost in "the system" or trapped in their abusive situations. 

The point of this blog is to share something important to me, beyond the poetry, the letters to Afghanistan, the excursions to take photos.  This entry is to share something that defines my core, something that I feel strongly should matter to you as a human.

I'm not one to push opinions so entries like this will be few and far between but you can assist in making a change.  Take a moment: volunteer, donate, call in for a child who needs help, or just pay attention to the children in your own life.   Nurture those who need your care and strength.  Protect those who cannot protect themselves.


This morning I learned that the sweet boy's grandfather has cancer.  The prognosis at this point is unclear--but it sounds serious and grim.  The process of searching for options has started for this family and I am left to wonder about the impact that all of this will have on this child who is only seven or eight years old; who has already gone through so much (and the impact that this will have on his grandmother). 

My mind fills with concern about the well-being of this little boy.  Will he continue to get the attention that he needs to keep him on a trajectory to functioning in society?  Will he take the illness of his grandfather on as his own personal burden?  Will he blame himself as so many children blame themselves for the sadness that enters their lives?

My soul goes out to the grandmother who now must divide her loving attention between a child who is very much a "special needs" child and an ailing husband.  It's a burden I can't even begin to imagine.  Many people, as well as myself, have offered to assist her in this time of need but even so it's an unfathomable hardship for me. 

Blue and Yellow Spider-Bug by the Child

"For millions of years flowers have been producing thorns. For millions of years sheep have been eating them all the same. And it's not serious, trying to understand why flowers go to such trouble produce thorns that are good for nothing? It's not important, the war between the sheep and the flowers?... Suppose I happen to know a unique flower, one that exists nowhere in the world except on my planet, one that a little sheep can wipe out in a single bite one morning, just like that, even without realizing what he's doing - that isn't important? If someone loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that's enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, 'My flower's up there somewhere...' But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it's as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn't important?'" 
-Le Petit Prince

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for any action you might take to support the end of child abuse.


 UPDATE: Since I posted this entry the little boy's grandfather has passed away.  Please send your good thoughts and intentions out there to them and to the people you interact with daily.  While things like cancer aren't necessarily avoidable, child abuse is.  This world could be a better place if we all dedicate some attention to the areas that need it.

No comments: