Yesterday evening, I pored over something called a “Crime Grid Report”. María’s godfather ordered it from the police department–it is a 3-year listing of all the arrests that were made at our daughter’s learning center for young people with significant behavioral and emotional needs. By my count, since January of 2010, young people at this center have been charged with battery and assault over 30 times. If you remember a previous post, an agency that serves this population and has been in operation for decades has had 0 charges made against their clients by staff members. At the recent meeting we attended to develop a plan for getting María back to school, we were assured that charges like she faced were extremely rare at that center.
One of the ways I can love my daughter is engaging this kind of situation as constructively as possible. How do I do that? Especially, how do I do it taking the long view? Later this morning, I will dip my hand in ashes and make the sign of the cross on my own forehead. After watching my mother’s ashes dance their way to the river that carried them away from us, that ritual has a whole new meaning for me and I am more mindful than ever of mortality, including my own.
Today, it isn’t so much that I fear death for myself. But I literally feel nausea-inducing fear when I think about what Sherod’s death and mine will mean for our girl. It isn’t just that the parents of children with special needs have extra responsibilities, some of them really tough. Our culture speak glowingly of “mainstreaming” children with different abilities and placing them in the “least restrictive environment” possible. Noble concepts, both of those. But if you scratch the surface of too many of our responses, it becomes clear that so much of the effort is about cost containment. Don’t get me wrong–I understand the pressures on our economy enough to know that we have to make wise and responsible decisions about every aspect of our common life. But the conversation is too shallow, the solutions often simplistic beyond belief, the gaps enormous. The monstrous fear I sometimes wrestle with is only too grounded in the realities of our time.
A few years ago, All Saints was blessed with the presence of one of those young people that just make the light sparkle a little brighter. James is a smart, passionate attorney with a wonderful mind. I got to know him a bit and then got to do that hard thing priests do a lot in Southeast Florida–watch him and his young family move to North Carolina. I had thought about him on more than one occasion over the years so I was thrilled when he friended me on Facebook. He posts really interesting links (yesterday’s was one on teleology) and likes Dr. Who. Those of us who are his fb friends get glimpses into his life and family and know that they deal with their own set of needs and challenges. Recently, James asked me if I had any reading recommendations for folks who explore the nexus between the issues of disability/special needs and theology. We batted some names back and forth inconclusively, but the question stayed with me.
This morning, I had to wrestle mightily with the rage I felt when I sat with my coffee before dawn, the crime grid report on the table next to my mug. It came to me that I have read bits and pieces of Miroslav Volf’s book, Exclusion and Embrace, and that in fact, that might be a book to explore in the context my daughter and my identity as her mother and a woman of faith. Volf is Croation and this book is a highly personal effort to engage the questions of identity, forgiveness and reconciliation in the light (and darkness) of his own experience during the Bosnian War.
James and I texted back and forth as the day lit up and we tentatively agreed to ruminate together about this book. James will be a contributor to this blog, he will probably also post some of his own thoughts on Facebook. I invite any of you who read this post to engage the conversation with us in any way you see fit. Drop me a line at rvlindahlatmedotcom if you want to become a contributor to this blog for this small project. And to all, a holy and liberating Lent!