Yesterday, we received a new boy at the Casa Girasoles. The boy, only three years old – was greeted with love and affection. He was given welcoming presents and showered in the care of all the other boys and staff. Although I am happy because I know we will offer this young boy a genuine chance at the future he deserves – I am also a bit sad. Sad for the family so fractured that their little boy was removed. I am saddened for the thousands and thousands of other children suffering in families without the support they need.
There is a story – a parable – that is well-known within social justice circles. The story has several different versions – but the allegory is always the same. I share an arrangement called “The Town by the Bend in the River.” It is hard to know entirely who the original author of the story is – but I found this version on the website The Vitruvian Man.
Once upon a time, there was a town that was built just beyond the bend of a large river. One day, some children from a small town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help, and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the river.
One body was dead, so they buried it. One was alive but quite ill, so they put that person into the hospital. The third turned out to be a healthy child, who then they placed with a family who cared for it and who took it to school.
From that day on, several bodies came floating down the river, and every day, the good people of the town would pull them out and tend to them – taking the sick to hospitals, placing the children with families, and burying those who were dead.
This went on for years; each day brought its quota of bodies, and the townsfolk not only came to expect many bodies each day but also worked at developing more elaborate systems for picking them out of the river and tending to them. Some townsfolk became quite generous in nurturing to these bodies, and a few extraordinary ones even gave up their jobs to tend to this concern full-time. And the town itself felt a particular healthy pride in its generosity.
However, during all these years and despite all that generosity and effort, nobody thought to go up the river, beyond the bend that hid from their sight what was above them, and find out why, daily, those bodies came floating down the river.
This work – the work of committing to long range goal of changing the way children get the care they need and striviung for systematic change in the way child welfare services are delivered – demands, requires, that we keep a focus on both the current need of every child we are called to serve . . . AND, we must always be looking up the river to address the true compelling complexities better. We owe it to the children and families!