Friday, June 24, 2011

First Breaths, Last Breaths and What Comes Next

Eight years ago today a blue-eyed baby boy took his first breaths in this great big world. His single mother subsequently took him home to a life of dysfunction, poverty, abuse and neglect. I often wonder what his first days, weeks, months were like as he grew into a toddler. Did his mother love him? I believe she did. She simply didn't have the skills necessary to take good care of him. Did he love his mother? I think he did. He used to bring her fistfuls of dandelions and weeds that he picked from their front yard.

This blue-eyed boy took his last breaths sweating to death in an inferno closet where summer heat soared and sweat soaked the blanket that bound his arms behind him and wrapped him tight like a mummy. I often wonder about those last moments when this little boy died alone, gasping for air. His foster mother allegedly said, "he's freaking out," as she closed the closet door behind her and drove away.

Did he scream and shriek and cry out for someone to save him? Did he fight and squirm and wiggle violently, desperate to be free? Did angels surround him with their love and tenderness in his agony?

I like to think they did. I must believe they did.

Since Marcus Fiesel's first and last breaths, I have pondered what they might mean and how they might be used in the face of our compromised foster care system, vulnerable families and fragmented communities.

What meaning do we take from Marcus' short life and death? Maybe he came to teach us something. Maybe his death can give new life, new hope to countless foster kids if we commit to taking better care of our modern-day orphans. Maybe goodness can grow from this devastation. Maybe he did not suffer and die in vain.

I like to think that. I must believe that.

The enormously complicated issue of foster care can discourage anyone trying to find ways to help. But like the largest group of children now entering foster care, maybe the answer is very small, so small that we accidentally look past it while we try to find great, big solutions. Maybe the answer is kindness: kindness to each other, to our communities and to families living on the edge. Kindness to foster parents, caseworkers, GALs, magistrates and others who are buried under so much pressure and heartbreak they want to give up. Maybe kindness will be the one simple thing that, offered and received over and over again, will slowly but surely transform the lives of children and ultimately our world.

Maybe in honor of the anniversary of Marcus Fiesel's birthday you can give the gift of kindness to the next child you see. Maybe it will be your own. Maybe it will be the neighbor's kid or even the annoying kid at the pool who is always stirring up trouble. Maybe you can look upon that child with kindness and ponder the magnificence in that little body: the wonder and the hope and the potential that child brings to the world. Maybe you can nurture it fully knowing you are sending ripples out into the world far beyond what can be seen.

I like to think you will. I must believe you will.