Thursday, December 11, 2008

a sheriff a baby and some pants

I first saw them at the beginning of the week as they wheeled the stroller into the enormous room chilled to the bone. I hear him before I can see him but I'd recognize that sound anywhere. The sound of the newly born.

The parents are ragged and distrustful, but the journey to here no matter how many wrong turns doesn't mean anything to a newborn. We bring them in and start to get them settled when I see the hospital bracelet still on her wrist. How old is he, I ask. 4 days, she says. M is with me and she's antsy, we've been here awhile now and she's finished her various tasks. After a while I tell her it's time for us to go and the mom hears me. She looks up at the baby's father She's not staying. We are the only family staying here. Her eyes dart around the room and she sees what I see, a hundred or so folks from the street milling around and then there's her.

M immediately blurts out we can stay too mommy it'll be fun and in that moment I feel like the worst person ever, I would never want her to stay there all night and yet somehow I've rationalized that it's okay for others, a hypocritical line I've somehow learned how to cross.

Two nights later I return alone, the little family is there again and now the baby has spent half of his life in the streets. It's a complicated situation, one that requires more creativity than usual and so we assembled a team and after about three minutes assessing the situation one of them looks at me with what looks like tears in his eyes. I'm making it my personal goal to have them in a better place by Friday he says. And sometimes the stars align because he does exactly that, even beating his own deadline by a good 24 hours.

Across town I run into another little family, this time a mom and her daughter who's exactly the same age as M. The mom has 1 day left to stall the sheriff from locking her out of her apartment, the clock is ticking and she's desperate and it's not lost on me how young she looks herself. The little girl is sullen, I lean down and ask her if she's hungry and she nods her head. She's having a bad day, her mama says. We've been on the bus so long she had an accident and we don't have a change of clothes. Now I see it, she's not sullen but embarrassed and she will not stand up no matter what. Want me to try and find you some pants I ask and she nods.

While I'm off hunting down little kid pants the mom gets the help she needs and the eviction has been forestalled. She'll have her place for another month and if she follows a few other steps maybe she won't be in this place again next month. We even find some pants. It's moments like this that make the most sense.

Too much cold and too much work has left me sick just as I was supposed to get on a plane. Now I'm home instead of going away and I'm not happy about it but given the week itself it still feels like we've come out ahead and sometimes that's just the way things go.

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17 comments:

wheelsonthebus said...

I spent a lot of my time this week thinking about how unfair it is that my baby could be in the hospital so long when others get no care. When she was in that hospital, a social worker should have been working to make sure the baby wasn't released to the streets.

flutter said...

remind me, sometime to tell you about the day I had Grace.

marymurtz said...

Dude, I say this about five times a year to you, and this is probably number six. You are doing God's work.

kgirl said...

Hope you get that trip soon. Feel better. ((hugs))

metro mama said...

I don't know how you do it.

xo

Bon said...

i'm trying to imagine being the mom in that moment, the one with the newborn, realizing M wasn't staying.

i'm glad things came out ahead, this week.

Beck said...

Ugh. That's heartbreaking to even read about. Those poor mamas.

Magpie said...

You break my heart on a regular basis.

Gwen said...

There are not enough people like you and your comrades, jen.

Hope you feel better, soon.

QT said...

Feel better, sweets~

meno said...

Newborns, on the street. That is just wrong.

Expatriate Chef said...

I think of you often, the work you do. It inspires me. Thank you.

motherbumper said...

The frustration you encounter daily is overwhelming to read. But you do it, you do it well, and you spread the word and that is an inspiration. Damn, you rock.

Maggie, Dammit said...

If you didn't write these things? I wouldn't know about them at all.

Think about what a service that is.

I'm thankful for you.

painted maypole said...

i read your harry chapin post, and then I read this one, and you know... your work. it's different. it just is, Jen, and I think you know it and you know its worth and that doesn't mean that you take time away from your family but still... think of the families that you have helped and...

oh, I am too tired to say any of this straight but Jen? Dude? I love you. You are amazing.

ewe are here said...

A newborn already on the streets... heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

From a mom of a newborn, I'm thanking God for you and your work.