I'd like to share some of my kids with you. Yesterday I told you about an organization that I was privileged to be a part of here in Nebraska. I came to that organization as the director of a program created to mentor children who had been abused or neglected. During the five years that we were in operation, we saw more than 200 kids throughout the eastern part of the state. We created a phone line so that any young person could call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They could call if they needed help with their homework, if they were home by themselves after school, or if they just wanted to talk. They could call if they were being abused. We did no advertising. The children and their families came to us strictly by word of mouth.
My first kiddo came to us a few months after he had tried to hang himself. He had come from a home in which his step-mother beat him and his siblings with a belt every day. Not a spanking, a beating. The kids had hiding places in the home...under the bed against the wall, in the closet behind a board in the back wall, in the basement. When "mom" would go on one of her daily rampages, the kids would scatter so that she couldn't get all of them and they would hide until it was over. My kiddo (the oldest of four) felt guilty for not protecting the others and standing up to her, so he tried to kill himself at the age of 13.
Kiddo number two was two years old when her mother's live-in boyfriend would dress her up in costumes and have sex with her while her mother was at work. Mom came home and caught him one day. Not knowing what to do, she called her sister who reported the crime. Two days later, the mother took the daughter and they visited the boyfriend in jail. I met this beautiful girl when she was 11 years old and throwing school desks out of the windows.
Kiddo number three was a 12 year old girl who was mentally handicapped, not severely or profoundly, but receiving special education services at school. Her mother, also mentally handicapped like her daughter, worked nights at the community nursing home doing the laundry. When she was at work in this community of 250 people, the mother's boyfriend would come into the home with this girl and her 14 year old brother, and force the girl to perform oral sex on him.
Kiddo number four was a 6 year old boy whose 13 year old babysitter would perform some of the most heinous sexual acts on a child an area counselor had ever seen in someone so young. She had been abused in the same way by her 16 year old step-brother.
I wish that these stories were unusual. I wish that I could tell you that I didn't have any more to tell you, but I've already shared that we served over 200 kids with stories all similar to these. It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. We were able to provide these kids with an adult friend who was safe and who cared for them in positive ways. We made a difference for these kids, all of them. And then we were able to provide so much more for them by creating a network of people who could serve all of their needs.
Let me tell you how I came to know that I must do something for these children. When I was in college, I had my first school visitation experience in the ghetto community of Wichita. I spent six weeks in a classroom of mostly black first graders from the lowest economic community in the state of Kansas, outside of Kansas City. On the first day of my second week there, a young man age six, came to school late. When he entered the door of the classroom, I almost became sick to my stomach. His face was a bleeding, bruised, swollen mess. I had never seen someone so beaten. The teacher asked me to take the young man to a room across the hall and call the school nurse and social worker. While I sat there with the young man, he told me that it was his fault that his daddy hit him. When I asked him what he could possibly have done to deserve a beating like this, he told me that he had not eaten his bowl of cereal. I will never forget that young man and his beautiful little face before the beating and the face after the beating. I was shocked to learn that this was a fairly regular occurrence for this young man and that social services would probably make another trip to his home to visit with his parents, but nothing more would probably be done.
That was many, many years ago and, fortunately, the laws have changed. I've had the privilege to work with a lot of children since then fortunately not all abused, but I've never forgotten my little friend and that I promised myself that I would do whatever I could in my lifetime to help children like him. You see, children don't have a voice in our society. They can't vote so there isn't a politician that will pay attention to them. We, the adults of our society, must make the choice to be their voice. We have to stand our ground and make people listen to us. We must protect them because they cannot protect themselves.
Please do something to help the children in your community. It doesn't take much time or effort to make a real difference! Find some way to make a child's life better, safer. There are lots of ways that you can help. Just pick a place and start.