What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Paul Newman eyes. That's what I call them. An intense, penetrating blue that could pierce your very soul. Sometimes as with Shawnee, you could actually look into those eyes and see nothing. No life, no emotion, and seemingly no essence. It was those eyes that caught my attention, not the waist length emerald, sapphire and amethyst strands of hair. Nor was it the multiple facial piercings; nor the pair of hands that were tattooed in a choke hold around her. It was her Paul Newman eyes.

Although kids have always been part of my life, first mine and for the last 18 years, kids of others, I knew from experience that I was "The Company." In my day we called it "the Establishment." Either way I would be deemed suspicious. Shawnee would be on her guard around me until trust could be earned, if ever. Therefore I wanted to see her in her element; to see her be herself, the way she acted around her peers. I needed to see her while her invisible protective force field was down.

My maternal heart quivered with compassion for this adolescent which gave me this overwhelming desire to know what was behind those eyes. Why were they so empty? Did they mirror her life? From what I could already recognize, they held horror, fear, an awfulness that few of us could ever perceive.

She was petite, no more than five feet tall. The boy's pants she wore hung low on her hips, making them sag in places that were meant for tautness. The too small tank top exposed more violent in nature tattoos on her biceps, neckline and wrists. Her attire also revealed a paunch that could only be achieved through motherhood, telling me without words, that her maternal heart had been wounded deeply. Her masculine mannerism opened to the elements one who trusted no one; who needed no one; who loved no one, including herself.

After only a few days of observation, I knew many of her likes and dislikes. What made her angry and what made her smile. She had an awkward smile; one that was given rarely and when it was, always through clenched jaws that matched the fists that were always at the ready. She chain smoked with a vengeance, sometimes tossing a joint into the mix, never caring what people thought. Or did she? Was she wanting to get caught, perhaps even needing to be caught?

When she accompanied one of her friends who had been accosted to the emergency room, she looked like she would rather be anywhere else but there, but to her credit, she waited albeit nervously. I made it a point to introduce myself and asked if I could buy her a cup of coffee. While the friend was in surgery, she and I had a chance to talk. I was taken aback when what started out to be a casual chat turned out to be a gushing of self-restricted, fury and fear.

I hadn't yet met a kid that gave his or her right name. It seemed to be not only a way of hiding from their past but a new identity as well. Blue eyes called herself Badger as I would find out in time, the name was apropos as were most self-proclaimed titles.

It turned out Badger was 25 years old and had more battle scars than most people acquire in a lifetime. Badger was born a Native American, abandoned to her 39 year old abusive grandmother in Oklahoma. She was raped by grandmother's boyfriend at the age of fourteen.

"I don't want no damned liar living under my roof," the grandmother drunkenly stated, after Badgers confession of what had been done to her. Seven weeks after the declaration, her grandmother married her off to the highest bidder. The going price for a child bearing fourteen-year old was $239 and a 1969 Cadillac convertible that wasn't running.

Six months later, Badger gave birth to a little girl which was promptly taken away from her and given to the boyfriend, even though it supposedly wasn't his. During Badger's 6 year marriage, she survived extreme verbal abuse, multiple broken bones, and even a gunshot wound to the chest which left her heart a bit weaker than normal. Badger gave birth to two more children, both products of spousal rape.

She loved her children as best she could and through the abuse and violence she did what she could to protect them from their father's daily rants. But the courts declared her an unfit mother when her husband broke the arm and collar bone of their 10 month old boy. She left Oklahoma an empty shell when her children were taken from her and given to the grandmother that never treated her as anything more than a slave.

Badger has seen it all, done it all and at 26 is worn out and tired. Although she has never spoken the words out loud, I believe that if she could lay down and go to sleep, never to awaken, she would be content for the first time in her short life. She went back to Oklahoma two years ago to begin the battle of regaining custody of her children. Although my time with Badger came to an end, her story hasn't. I see it in the faces of the new Badgers. The Badgers that have been abandoned, battered, raped and worse.

Named after a character in CATS, Mungojerrie/Chloe is a pick pocket who insists that all the pockets she has stolen from were deserving. Zelda chose Pariah after her parents labeled her as a social outcast and sent her out into the world to fend for herself at 15. Pregnant 17 year old Lisa calls herself Gypsy. She never stays in one place for very long, for fear of her step-father, also the man who impregnated her, will find her.

There will always be "Badgers," but maybe we can reach out just a little and offer a bit of hope. As I walk these 1863 miles I beg of you, if you have a heart for kids, especially the one and one half million kids who have never had anyone give them their hearts, then please donate 1 penny for every mile to your nearest teen shelter.

Be the Change

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