Don't Give Up
This is Where You Need to Be
The boys were so angry. And who could blame them. They had been taken from their homes - most of them without anything to all their own - and taken to a state-run shelter for boys aged 6-12. They were officially "in the system".
I was young, only 21, and newly married. Idealistic, and sure I could make a difference in the lives of these boys. I could be a hero! And so, I applied to be their day time caregiver. We were going to have so much fun!
I had no idea what I was getting myself in to.
My job was fairly straight-forward - when I got to the home at 7 am, I was to get the boys up and fed, make sure they got ready, and take them to school. Then I would clean the house, or get groceries, or take care of whatever errands needed running during the day. I was also the school contact, in the event something happen. And "something" always did.
These boys were so hurt, so angry, so lost. They did not see me as a friend, or someone there to help them and love them. I was the enemy. Everyone was the enemy. They would frequently try to take their anger and hurt out on each other - stabbing each other with forks, getting into fights, or by saying some of the cruelest things I have ever heard. We all know how terribly words can hurt, and they had obviously heard words like these time and time again. If they weren't fighting each other, they were fighting me - often times physically. And on the odd occasion they were being quiet, they were usually huffing hairspray or aerosol room freshener to find release from the pain I'm sure they were feeling inside.
It didn't take long for me to realize I was ill prepared for what these boys were going through. I tried everything - pleading with them, reasoning with them, crying with them, threatening to call the cops. I honestly didn't know what to do. I hated my job, but we needed the money. I would bawl on my way to work every morning and again on my way home. Life felt hopeless and I began to think it really was. I could feel the familiar grip of depression taking hold and I was lost.
One morning, on my drive to work, a song by Michael W. Smith came on the radio, and when it got to the chorus I heard the words "Don't give up, Andrea". My breath caught in my throat and the world went quiet. My body felt like it was buzzing, my ears straining to hear every word. Could it really have been my name? My name? The chorus came around again and there is was "Don't give up, Andrea". Desperate for whatever message I was being sent, I listened on.
"Got the whole world at your feet
Just keep on - holding on
This is where you need to be"
Tears of joy and relief fell in fat drops on my shirt, as I took in each word, like a healing salve on my soul. I was going to be ok. Life was going to be ok.
That day at the shelter was no better than before, but somehow I had the strength to get through. The perseverance to maintain my patience and gentleness and love for these boys came from deep within. They could try to break me, but the music humming in my heart reminded me 'Don't give up, Andrea.' And I wouldn't.
That song came on every morning - every single morning - on my drive to work for at least month or so. It kept me going. It reminded me I was there for a reason. I was on the right track. I was loved.
I watched as boys went on to foster homes, or to go live with family, and new boys would come in. Somehow in all the chaos and uncertainty, we found a rhythm. We became a little misfit family.
I still think of my boys from 20 years ago and wonder what became of them. I still cry for them - for their childhood - every now and then. They are adults now, and that is almost more than I can comprehend. Are they fathers? Are they good fathers? Did they go on to become successful? Or did their time in "the system" damage them? Do they remember me as distinctly as I remember them? My boys. I wish I could sit down and talk to each and every one of them again. I would love to tell them what that song told me so long ago....
I remember when you took a stand
With the pearl of wisdom in your hand
And a soul of desire
You held your own against the world
A lion's heart in a little girl
So unafraid of the fire
But those days don't last
Sweet dreams die fast
A stumble when you walk on the wire
When all your friends
Start giving in
The flames are burning higher and higher
Don't give up, Andrea
Got the whole world at your feet
Just keep on - holding on
This is where you need to be
All the days that you've been spending
Spinning while your heart's descending
Like a stone in the ocean
Sometimes when you think the world is ending
It's really just a new beginning
The other side of emotion
But I've seen your eyes -no compromise
When you set your mind on a matter
Be strong through the tears
And your sight will clear
You're gonna get what you're after.