Monday, December 28, 2009

Childhood Stability

I'm not really the type that frequents bars, much less on a cold Sunday night in December. I'm more of a homebody and prefer hanging out with good friends and family. However, as I headed out of my house last night, I was looking forward to seeing friends from grade school that I hadn't seen in 20 years. Twenty-something of us had been together nine months a year, five days a week from the time we were in first grade until we went to high school. That's a lot of togetherness.

Last night those of us who gathered relived our years in Catholic elementary school in Cincinnati, Ohio. We laughed a lot.

"Remember third grade when you got your legs stuck in the desk after you sat in it backwards and the principal had to cut you out of it with a saw?"

"Remember when you got me suspended in eighth grade after you dared me to climb the ladder that went to the roof of the school?"

"Remember when the boys got into a fist fight after school in sixth grade? They hit each other, started crying, then shook hands."

"Remember when you got a demerit for modifying the announcements on the school PA to include a message in the office for Tinkerbell?"

The remembering went on for several hours and we laughed ourselves sick. But it wasn't all fun and games.

We toasted our classmate, Warren, who is forever age 10 after dying from cancer when we were in fourth grade. We talked about the Dad's Club fall out in seventh grade, when a bunch of parents fought over whether there would be one or two boys' basketball teams. We remembered how, in 1983, the school brought in professional counselors to talk to us about our feelings. We were a small class. We had one classmate die and another diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. In the middle of that, my classmates came to my childhood home one evening a week before Christmas to sing carols for my father, who died of cancer a week later on Christmas Day.

We saw some tough times, but we saw them together. Nine months a year, five days a week.

As I drove home last night, I thought about what a gift it is to be anchored, to experience stability in childhood when things change rapidly, without warning. People get sick. People die. People can be cruel and so can life. But in relationships with others, we find our way around the tough stuff and can emerge better people because of it.

I'm grateful for the anchoring my classmates and my school gave me from the time I was 6 until I was 14. It helped build the foundation for my future. But I also think about the children who aren't so lucky to experience this kind of stability, like foster children who move from home to home and school to school regularly. I think about how they lack relationships, the one thing that can really help them heal when life hands them devastation.

If you are so inclined, think back to those who offered you stability in your own childhood and thank them for it. They gave you a vital gift. And if you are so inclined, consider how you can become or help find stability for foster children who aren't quite so fortunate.