For my profession, I work as a Child Protective Services Worker. To sum it up, my job is to investigate allegations of child abuse and determine whether children are safe in their home. I accomplish this primarily by going into families’ homes, usually unscheduled, and speaking with each person in depth. If a child/ren are determined to be unsafe, I remove them from their home. It’s the most difficult job I have ever had and will likely ever have in the future.
I won’t go into all the reasons it is difficult, except to say they are probably not for the reasons you might think. However, I think it may be obvious that I interact within environments of chaos and brokenness frequently. I enter into others’ lives usually at their worst moments. I’ve been in over 100 different homes in about a year. Every day I walk away from work hardly thinking about all that I have experienced that day. Five days a week from 8-5 (if I am lucky), I don’t have the luxury to allow myself the feel the weight of what I am experiencing and what these individuals are experiencing. But it comes out in other ways. Like feeling anxious any time a friend starts speaking about their current struggles. Like getting hives every once in a while. Like having a panic attack suddenly. Like waiting each day until I can go back to sleep again. Like using technology to avoid.
I have not learned how to cope effectively. I am not allowed to react in the moment. I am not allowed to show what I am actually feeling. Then I come home, and who would understand? Who would I be able to talk to? I don’t even want to think about work when I end my work day or work week, let alone talk about it.
On top of that, it has been a hard year for everyone. We have seen no shortage of brokenness in every aspect of our lives, collectively. To add fuel to fodder, we are a culture that loves to place blame within a black and white framework. “They are toxic”. “They are racist”. “They are criminals”. We preach tolerance and simultaneously have none. We have no compassion. We don’t care about understanding. Empathy is only reserved for victims. Victims are reserved for those who have airtime. Airtime is determined by what content gets the most views. The most likes. Working in the field I do, it’s almost unbearable. Why? Because every day of my life, I see that the world is anything but black and white. Justice has become in the eye of the beholder instead of a beacon of Truth. I see the impact of trauma. Its cyclical effect that makes victims into perpetrators. The emotional impact that makes children into unmanageable and unlovable creatures. People lie or exaggerate to me all the time. Divorced or separated couples target one another because after love has ceased to right all wrongs, it turns to hate and vengeance. So, I can’t afford to take things at face value. I have to dig deeper. I have become skeptical and cynical about whether others are being honest and objective.
The world is broken. Most days, I don’t know how to live in it. Because I believe in the healing power of love. Agape love. Love that is unconditional. But it feels like our society wants nothing to do with that. It feels like we are demanding love based on what we feel like we need. What we want. What we “deserve”. A love that makes us feel good. We are turning love into something that is solely received and not given. And I am tired. Exhausted. Exhausted by constantly being confronted by the utter brokenness of humanity with no solution. No upward trend. Everyone is hurting.
This culminated into a moment when I was in the shower, and I was reflecting on a past service trip I have taken to Mexico when I was 15. Each day, each team member spent one-on-one time with a disabled orphan. One day, I was paired with a teenage girl, I think about 2 years younger than I, who had cerebral palsy and little control over any part of her body. A leader helped me changed her diaper. I was not prepared to do that. For lunch, she had to be fed pureed food. I had a difficult time controlling my gag reflex. As I thought about this moment, a sudden, surprising, and uncontrollable sob escaped from my body.
What if she felt unloved in that moment? Did I make her feel disgusting? Uncared for? Then I thought about a moment where we were at the beach, and I had the thought to take her to the water. I held her in my arms as I sat on the beach while the waves came and gently swept over us. With each wave, her smile became wider. Her laugh, bursts of toneless guttural grunts, filled the air. Joy. I thought about the moment and began to weep. Hardly knowing why. I became so overcome that I had no choice but to crouch in the bathtub with the shower still running and steady myself by placing my hands on the ledge. I wept. I couldn’t remember her name. I wept. She had three sisters, and I knew that some of them had passed, but I couldn’t remember if she was one of them. I wept harder. I thought about cultures where disabled equals discarded. I wept. I thought about how she did not deserve me. She deserved more. I wept. I thought and cried out about how desperately people need love, and how inadequate I feel to bring it to them. I wept. I thought about all the sorrow I have encountered in my work, and that I have to quell all emotion for the sake of professionalism. I felt inhuman. I wept.
I can’t even tell you if I had tears streaming down my face. My whole body heaved and convulsed almost involuntarily to the point where I thought I might be sick. The weight of everything came crashing upon me. Yet, I did not feel hopeless. I felt God saying he was weeping with me. It was release. It was almost as if I felt human again. I am not meant to shut myself off to the profound sorrow in brokenness. In cruelty. In abuse.
I want to be a person that heals and does not take away. People need to be loved, and I want to try my best to give them that love. I want to treat everyone as if their actions do not determine their worth or dictate their identity. We are all broken. We can all be ignorant, cruel, selfish, and vindictive. We all want to be heard, understood, known, and accepted. Just because you DO something, it does not mean you ARE something.
We all deserve more than we are giving each other. And not because we earned it.