Work That Matters: Lutheran Social Services of Michigan www.lssm.org

“Knowing that someone loves you is a treasure,” said Sylvia, a demure, sweet 15-year-old girl desperate for a “forever family.” “It is the world.” Sylvia lives with an elderly, ill grandmother and just learned yesterday that she can never see her father again.

“When you have someone love you, it’s just fantastic,” said Ryan, a quiet 14-year-old whose mother died three years ago and whose father is in jail for life. Tears seeped from his eyes as he explained that only one foster family loved him, but no one wanted to keep him, of the six foster families he’s lived with in five years.

This morning, before the sun rose, I was at WDIV Channel 4 with Ryan and Sylvia desperate for a loving family and three women who work hard to find children homes.

My lovely friend Paula Tutman is producing the segment, so it’s got heart, story and tears. It’s likely to air on Christmas Day, a story of possibility and hope, of people helping people, of love missing but love to discover.

How lucky am I that I get to do work like this? The voice of authority on this segment was Vickie Thompson-Sandy, the Lutheran Social Services of Michigan Chief Service Officer, and even she grew tearful as she lowered the wall between the work she does and the heart that cries for these children hungry to be loved.

“We take for granted what we have – loving parents, a safe house – when so many people don’t have,” she said. “Especially at this time of year, we should value what we have and provide for what others don’t have. All these kids want is a parent who’s there for the long-run.”

In fact, Vickie relayed that her predecessor left her job to be home with her teenagers. Teenagers need loving parents and guidance around even more than little ones, she said.

It’s true that we don’t realize how precious our loving, supportive families are. Even at my age, with children of my own, I call my parents daily to check in, to hear their perspective, to receive their guidance. Just this week, a friend lost her 81-year-old mother. It is never easy to be without that guiding presence. When my father lost his mother, he was already a grandfather himself. “Now I’m an orphan,” he said, and it struck me cold that at any age, without your parents, you are alone in the world.

Except that those of us who have been so fortunate as to grow up with two loving parents present and guiding us through life always have their voices, lessons and wisdom in our heads. I can hear my father’s voice everywhere I go. My mother’s sense of style and morals guide me even when she’s not standing near.

Children who for whatever reason lost their parents at a young age never have that to rely on.

“A family will always have your back,” said Sylvia. “They’re always behind you, no matter what you do or what you say. They’ll always come back to you.”

“Foster parents, if they don’t understand you, they just give you away like a puppy,” she said.

Today, and every day, I count my many blessings. Not only to have a loving and supportive family behind me every step of my life.

But to do work in the presence of people who are truly making the world better with their every move. Hats off to LSSM and folks like Vickie, to working so fervently to find homes for Ryan, Sylvia and so many others.

It was all I could to not bring them home with me, wrap my arms around them and keep them there.

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