Sometimes I remember the face of a girl in my third grade class.  She was always very quiet, hair was always in pony tails with knockers that didn’t match her outfits.  Her glasses were always crooked on her face.  Her face was very hard to read, she never really smiled but never really looked upset.  I only barely noticed her in class, we knew each other because we lived in the same group home.  I can’ truly remember her name and I won’t make one up just in case it is her name so let’s just call her “that girl”.  At school she was a quiet character at the home she was different, she had a sister that she would look after and to see them together you knew they were close.  “That girl” was older than her sister and didn’t have to take care of her because that’s what our care takers were there for but “that girl” would make her sisters plate at dinner and sit next to her to make sure she ate.  She would pull out her sisters clothes for the next day and take them to bed with her so they couldn’t get mixed up with the other kids clothes, she would walk her sister to the kinder school and risk being late to her own class.  I watched her at the home because “that girl” was always smiling when she was with her sister.  But she never smiled at school, she never frowned but she never smiled.

At the end of third grade her sister moved out of the group home, she moved in with a family but “that girl” stayed at the home.  She stopped smiling.  I should have talked to her, I should have become her friend, I should have said something instead- I stayed away. We had a lot in common, I had a younger brother too and I was very quiet in school; as an adult I can see that we could have been best friends but as a third grader I didn’t think we had anything to talk about.  I completely understood her.

Have you ever met someone and through conversation you find out they went to the same college you went to, maybe even the same dates?  There’s an automatic connection right?  What about the opposite, have you ever met someone and knew right away there was nothing you could relate too, maybe they grew up in Wisconsin and you grew up in California.  Or they liked rock music and you like hip hop.  Most of us in this situation tend to judge the differences as negatives, “they’re not like me”.    That’s why I’ve hesitated on telling people I was in foster care.  I thought our differences would have them judge me negatively.  Today I’m still hesitant( place the word afraid here) to tell people I am a former foster child, I think they are thinking that my mother is a drug addict, my father an alcoholic and somewhere in there  maybe abuse.  That might be correct, that might not be but by refusing to tell you who I am I deny you the chance to get to know me.

Today I am giving you permission to understand.  If we ever meet you won’t know right off that I was deprived as a child, there is no asking for pity on my face.  You’ll be impressed with my resiliency and we will connect because we are each interested in each other.  I’ll ask how are you and genuinely care and you will respond that your day is going well.  The conversation will be pleasant and will end with a hug.  Sometimes being a foster kid doesn’t come up in every conversation but when you ask me about my past I’ll tell you and you and I will connect at a deeper level because I have given you permission to understand.

“That girl” and I met again in 6th grade, we are in the auditorium.  The principle was giving a speech on self esteem because someone in 6th grade had just committed suicide.  For some reason I looked up the bleachers in the rows ahead of me, “that girl” and I locked eyes.  I think she and I understood each other and we understood why we were there at that moment.  Every once and a while her face will come across my memory and reminds me that I’m not alone, there are others just like me who have been through tough times and we’ve made it through.  If we continue to tell our story then we may save others somehow.  Miles Above exist only because we understand we have to do something about out the future of our foster youths and someday so will you.

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