InSanity~Normalize, Don't Stigmatize Mentall Illness.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Think Twice, Part I. ~ Dedicated to child survivors of abuse, with thanks to Phil Collins

Photo taken in the city of Paradise, CA, 1972. Hint: I'm the bigger chick.
She calls out to the man on the street "Sir, can you help me?"
Irritated by her neediness, I don’t return the call right away. Instead, I enjoy my lunch and get a few things off of my desk. “Did you hear about the shooting?” my co-worker asks. “I heard something about it, but no one was hurt. So that's good. I’ll call her in a bit,” I respond casually.

It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep, Is there somewhere you can tell me?"
“I’m sorry, I forgot your name,” the woman tells me over the phone when I decide to return the call. “But I know you’re the Supervisor, so I’m calling to tell you what happened last night. I’m trying to get out of here. I’m gonna get a new place. I really am. I saw something in downtown today. I’ve been meaning to get out since they smashed my car. But I can’t pay more than $1200. I’ll see another place across town tomorrow.”

I can’t give her a safe home. I can’t give her a home at all. I have nothing for her. Worse yet, I have nothing for Marcus. Two bullets remain lodged in the walls of his bedroom. They were meant for the neighbors in the crack house next door. She waited for years for low-cost housing, only to earn the opportunity to live in the cross fire. Literally.

I have nothing to tell her. I have nothing to tell Marcus. We were just getting to know each other. He was just starting to open up a bit.

He's so used to it. He's completely detached.
He walks on, doesn't look back. He pretends he can't hear her.

I sit on my cushioned, adjustable chair in my office at my job, fielding e-mails all the while. Her voice cracks. “There were five shots. I was so – and, I was so scared - a crash through the walls. I, I, I was so scared, Robyn.” I feel her tears streaming down her face. “Marcus was at his friend’s house down on East 14th. He’s used to shootings. There was a gang that hung out around his last foster home. But thank God he wasn’t home, and I wasn’t hurt either.”

Starts to whistle as he crosses the street Seems embarrassed to be there
Marcus lived there for just three weeks. At 16, this was his tenth “home” – a remarkably low number compared to his foster peers.
“You people don’t get it. I’m sick and tired of moving,” he told us before this last move. “It doesn’t matter what I want. Don't even ask me.”

He’s given up on the world, on himself. He hates foster care. He hates me. I can’t blame him. I’m ashamed to be a part of a system that failed him so miserably. How much easier it would be to leave this field. How much easier for Marcus and I to just pretend that none of these evils exist, that there's no child abuse, no gangs, no crack houses or shootings anywhere, especially not in his home.

Marcus has no family. He’s never had a real home. He probably never will.

They arrive with a large garbage bag, into which he throws a few items of clothing. Within five minutes, he is in transport out of West Oakland to a place in which we hope he won’t be sprayed by bullets.
Oh think twice, it's another day for You and me in paradise. Oh think twice, it's just another day for you, You and me in paradise.
To be continued in Think Twice, Part II.


  1. Moving and thought-provoking....

  2. Great post Robyn, I'm so fortunate to have been able to raise my children in a safe environment. This one got to me...

  3. It's hard not to think twice about this. It seems to be everywhere.

  4. It's amazing the things that happen "below the surface" of society. I've been around the world and have seen the way humanity seems to close it's eyes to atrocities. It's hard to be that close to suffering and realize that you can't take it all away. Beautifully written post!

  5. You should collect these posts with a music CD or something. They are always so powerful and moving! And evoke a swirl of emotions. It's crazy that people like Marcus have to go through stuff like that and call it a life. BTW off subject...cute chicks.

  6. So sad that he doesn't even have something other than a trash bag for what few things he has.

  7. You really have to think twice after reading that - very powerful

  8. Wow that was moving and powerful! Great post. I did like the comment under the photo. =) New follower here.

  9. That was an awesome post, Robyn. I've lived on the periphery of gang violence and have seen the damage it causes first hand. That was a very stirring article. Excellent work.

    BTW, Paradise? I'm a former Chico resident...

  10. I thank you all for reading this..there's more to come. April is National Child Abuse prevention month, and May is National Foster Care Month. Bringing awareness to the already enlightened is a good step, I believe. xo

    BB, thanks.

    Pat, you're one I dedicate this to.

    Ms. A, yes, if we open our eyes, we see it

    Spuds, exactly thanks.

    IS, hugs and more hugs.

    CB, were I as tech savvy as you my friend, dayneu. Thanks.

    IT, yes, the big trash bag was the standard thing foster kids were given to pack their belongings. (I think we've moved beyond that, but probably not throughout the system.)

    Thank you, Kitty.

    Jerry, yay, not only a new follower, but a very cool one! Thanks.

    Tgoette. Well, Chico has it's nature stuff, but it is pretty backward. Huh? That's funny. This one picture is my only time in "Paradise" - well, literally speaking.

    Hugs all around,

  11. Very moving. Reminds me how lucky I've been in my life.

  12. Each one of these posts is packed with emotion and honesty. You are a fantastic writer Robyn!

    I inspect a lot of low-income housing, and I've seen many things that have scarred me for life.

    It really gives you a much different perspective on life. All those times that I was a crappy teenager, thinking I knew everything, not appreciating the things that I had. Not knowing how amazingly good I had it.... Don't take anything for granted. Appreciate life. No matter how bad things get, thing could be a lot worse.

  13. You already know how much I love these creative posts. This one's really sad though :(

    PS you are too cute in that photo!

  14. Amazing post. I have goose bumps.

  15. I loved this! Very moving, and I loved the song by Phil Collins too. Yes, it certainly makes you think how lucky we are to have had good upbringings.

  16. I'm amazed...people have so much to be grateful for and they don't even know it. Thanks for reminding me.

  17. Amazing writing, problems exists that we never know of, because we don't experience them, but yet we can still help change them if we are aware. You make us aware here!