There are stories that break my heart every day. In this work, in this field, the stories will destroy you. They will send shocks to your very core, cracking you open and releasing a flood of emotions that will leave you reeling.
Abuse. Rape. Assault. Attacks. Violence. Trauma.
These things rip your heart right out of your chest and slam it to the ground, then they pounce on it repeatedly, obliterating every part of it, making every beat a painful one. They take this shiny, white picture of innocence you always believed in, and they throw handfuls of mud on it, spit on it, splatter it with blood and hand it back to you.
These things are ugly, ferocious beasts. They are born from old monsters, and they are bred in humans. It's a cycle that is so resilient it seems it will never be broken: abusers almost always have been abused, which makes them abuse others. It's tragic. It's awful.
Put a child in the middle of these stories, in the middle of these cycles, and the whole world around you seems to go dark.
It's like a beautiful spring day, full of sunshine, bright flowers, cool breezes, laughter, everything joyful and light and free like children are. But then, out of nowhere, massive black clouds roll in, lightning splits the sky in jagged pieces. Shocking booms of thunder make your skin shudder and a torrential downpour releases onto that once peaceful scene. Flower petals are yanked from their stems and carried away with the debris, the wind whips your skin with stinging drops of rain, and all the tranquility of that sweet spring scene is wrecked by this devil of a storm.
These stories shouldn't happen, we think. These things aren't okay. Who could do that to a child? Who could be so cruel, so hurtful, so terrible? Children are innocent. Children are supposed to be sheltered from storms like these.
But these children, the ones whose stories I pen and share with anyone who will listen, these children know pain. They know the worst of it. They've seen the very darkest places, felt the deepest hurts, and they've come here to try to heal again.
This place is a refuge, a solid ground, a blank slate. I think of this place as white. I think of these children as artists. I think that this is the first time a paintbrush has been put in their still-growing hands. I think that the palette they are being offered, these colors they can choose from, they are the first glimpses their eyes have of possibilities, of choices they can make for themselves. They can paint their own strokes, create their own artwork, write their own story, live their own lives. No controlling hand is overruling their wishes and manipulating their movements. They are given a chance to dream, to wish, to make, to rebuild, to restore, to learn, to grow.
These stories that will destroy you, they are also the stories that put you back together. They are the stories that show resilience. They show you that little hands and smaller bodies and younger years don't equate to weakness. They show you that strength comes from a place you can't always see. They show you that sometimes the little ones live really big stories full of things you wouldn't wish on an enemy and full of victory just the same.
This work, this field, is a hard place to be. This honor I have of being the storyteller of these young champions, it weighs heavy on my spirit some days. Some days it beats me to the ground and flattens me into a pulp and takes the very breath out of my lungs. Other days, though, it lifts me up and makes me believe in hope and humanity and healing with a fervor all over again.
These stories are redemption. They're restoration. They are grand transformations, great tragedies turned into glorious testimonies.
I'm thankful for this work. I go through the dark days, write the hard stories, tell the heartbreaking news because I know the light on the other side shines radiantly. I know the healing comes, the new skin covers the old wounds, the faces smile again and the laughter comes. Beautiful things are being made from the broken.