Monday, July 16, 2012

The Good Fight

I will not lie. At times I read the paper or watch the news or listen to the stories of people haphazardly having children with multiple partners, bringing these children into an environment of disorder and sometimes neglect or abuse, and despair comes.

Yet, if God loves the world and His Son died for it, and others are fighting the good fight in the face of profound human weakness or outright evil, what right have I at all to give in to hopelessness? As a child of God it is very dangerous to judge or dismiss your fellow human beings. You are dismissing yourself as well by default. And love.

Recently, on the July 5th show of Rock Center with Brian Williams, there was a piece about painkiller-addicted pregnant mothers. The number of mothers bringing newborns into the world in these circumstances has nearly tripled between 2000 and 2009. It is distressing to see these babies, because they are beautiful (how well I remember my own, my fierce love for them and their superpower over me!) but extremely agitated, and unlike a normal newborn, a good nursing session will not calm them as they go through withdrawal. More upsetting is the fact that some of the moms interviewed said this little child was the second or third drug-exposed infant they had delivered.

Somebody has to fight the fight here, because you give up on these kids and their mothers and society pays hugely in the long run. And it will undoubtedly affect whether that child can ever come to know God. Thankfully, despite the emotional roller-coaster they must experience daily, the nurses and doctors treating these babies and their mothers for addiction keep up the painful endeavor to comfort these innocent babies and lessen their pain, to get the mothers into treatment, counseling and teach them coping skills for when they take their little one home. As one nurse pointed out, they keep the babies in the hospital so long (an average of sixteen days at a cost of usually $39,000 +), because an extremely agitated baby and a mother with no coping skills makes for a scary combination.

I can only imagine. I am a mother of four, and some of my babies were much fussier than others. My third basically lived on me in her sling for the first five straight months, including naptime and bedtime. I was utterly exhausted. If while caring for such a high-need baby, I had been battling an addiction and depression as well, I am not sure how well I would have coped. So may God bless all the nurses, doctors, and mental-health professionals who are not giving up this daunting battle against human weakness and the cycles that are perpetuated through generations of families.

And God bless bikers, bikers who are fighting for kids who have suffered child abuse. I'm talking about the non-profit group called Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, a group started in Utah in 1995 by John Paul Lilly, clinical social worker and play therapist. He saw the need to give these terrified kids, whose abusers often continue to threaten them and contact them, a sense of security - a family of protectors.

The bikers have all undergone thorough background checks. They use road names such as Fat Daddy or Venus, and they give the children their own road names to protect their identity, plus their own do-rag, vest, and blanket with the BACA logo. More importantly, they are there to make the child feel safe anytime. They go with the child when that child needs to appear in court to testify against their abuser. They camp out all night in the driveway or lawn of children who are afraid their abuser will come back, children who can't escape their nightmares at night. If the abuser or the abuser's family show up at the child's school or home, the family can call BACA, and the bikers ride out as fast as they can. They stay in front of the child's house, several of them together, and they keep watch - sometimes with a handgun on the hip (one of the only times they will wear a weapon around the child).

These bikers give the kids back a sense of safety, a sense of loving thy neighbor, that was lost in their horrific ordeal. Because of the bikers' often tough appearance, the child feels that they have friends who are stronger, scarier than their abuser. It can make a difference in whether that child will testify or not at trial, whether they will play outside again. It can make them smile for the first time in a long time when they see this rough and tumble group of bikers pull up in front of their house with their motorcycles and watch them transform into cheerful surrogate uncles, aunts, grandmas and grandpas.

When I read about these extraordinary angels of mercy in the Arizona Republic this last Sunday, I was reminded that everybody has a unique vocation. Sometimes, from our own painful experiences, the grace to help others is born. John Paul Lilly was abused as a child, as were some of the bikers involved in BACA. A group of bikers befriended Lilly and empowered him to fight a fear of the world when he was young. Now his group BACA is an international agency for aiding children who have suffered abuse.

So, I will not despair. Because of the evil in the world, good people must give love, compassion, courage, hope and mercy to their neighbor. They have always bravely done it and they will continue to do it, thanks be to God. For myself, I know I must strive to join more fully in their efforts, concentrating not on what evil has been done but on what good can be done.

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