Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jonathan's Place

Ten or twelve years ago a man named Chris came to the clinic to talk with me. He was from Jonathan’s Place, a residential facility for children removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. They had lost their pediatrician and needed someone to do intake physical exams on the children (except for gynecologic exams, which were performed by REACH Clinic doctors at Children’s Medical Center). I said, yes, we’ll commit to that for the next year.
I found some of my notes from these times…
We started this week doing physical exams on children just removed from their family(s) because of abuse. Case workers from the residential facility where the children will live (Jonathan's Place) bring new children to Agape for their intake physical. There were 13 children this week, but I expect fewer next week. It's strong. Because in Texas, it takes a lot of abuse for a child to be removed from a home, what with all our "family values" and other filthy lies.
Chris and me at the doorway to the exam rooms at Agape
What follows is from an email I sent to my son after the first day: So when I was writing (to someone else) I was thinking I wanted to tell you... The people that were with the children were all young (of course): Katy has been at it for three years & is very intense & real; Keisha started two months ago, pretty, shy, nice; Ashley came in late – she feels really solid. Sometimes I wonder, what did I do to deserve this – to be around people like this. Not to lay religious on you, but it can't be anything but grace. And isn't that a beautiful idea. End of email.
The second day there were eight more children. This time Chris brought them, a young man, intense, sweet-natured, solid. And Ashley again. High compliment to say, I'd take her on patrol. Reality is they're taking me on patrol – lucky for me they're short patrols. Students & I trying to get up to speed on abuse-focused pedi exams, learning what we don't want to learn; the students are doing a good job.
And so it went. Most weeks for about a year there were 5-10 children. Ones that remain with me still today…
A girl about 11 or 12 who had been sexually abused by her father and who was taking care of her little sister, also sexually abused by him. I remember them sitting together, the older sister with her arms around the younger, protecting her. Jesus Christ.
A boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old with his genitals mutilated. That’s all I remember about him except he was kind of chubby and was in kind of a fog it seemed.
Another set of siblings, boys, with the older one being brave.
I saw children acting brave, children inconsolable, children numb, children fearful, children… I’d come home and spend time with David.
I asked someone I knew who had worked for a long time in Child Protective Services to spend some time with the students and me. I remember he said something to the effect that we didn’t have the luxury of feeling or being affected by what we were doing – at least while we were doing it. I remember thinking we were doing this for 6-8 hours/week while the staff at Jonathan’s Place, CPS caseworkers, sex crimes against children cops, REACH Clinic staff, and so on were doing it 40+ hours/week (like those kind of people ever worked a 40 hour week). It seems like we did this for about 1.5 years before they found another source with more pedi expertise.
There’s a folk belief among some indigenous people from Southeast Asia that psychic and other trauma can cause “soul loss.” I believe that too. We’re not talking about immortal souls here, but about the spiritual essence of people, their personhood. Gone, for now.
And so, here’s to you, Chris. And to you Estevan. And Katy, and all the beautiful people at Jonathan’s Place past and present, paying with heart and soul for the evil of others and being the hope of lost children.

From In Your Time. If you want you can click HERE to hear the song. Turn it up LOUD.

Feel the wind
And set yourself the bolder course
Keep your heart
As open as a shrine
You'll sail the perfect line

And after all
The dead ends and the lessons learned
After all
The stars have turned to stone
There'll be peace
Across the great unbroken void
All benign
In your time
You'll be fine
In your time

(a prayer)

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