But since then, I had pretty much put the idea to rest…until last night.
I think I had just drifted off to sleep, when I heard the phone ring. We had the bedroom windows open, so at first the ring sounded like it was coming from somewhere outside instead of from the adjacent room. I sat up straight when I realized it was our phone. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 11:15.
I hate latenight calls. My first thought is always “Who died?” I flashed back to April ’08, when the phone rang in the darkness one night. On the other end of the line, I heard my youngest brother struggling to speak through sobs and gasps for air. He had just learned that his father – my stepfather – had died. A couple of years before that, my mother called to say grandma had passed away.
People don’t call us just to say “Hi!” past 10 at night.
I hopped out of bed, made my way to the other room and answered.
Hello, is Mr. C there?
I’m groggy and think “What the hell is a telemarketer calling this late for?”
I’m sorry to call so late. This is Mr. G from Child Placement. I’m calling to see if you have a bed available.
For just a moment, it seemed like everything stopped. Thoughts got all jammed up and I couldn’t figure out what to say. I fumbled through an answer, aware that I sounded like I had been asleep for hours.
I’m sorry, we only have one bed. We already have one child.
Ok, thank you.
And then Mr. G was gone, probably scanning the Space List to see who else he could call.
I got back in bed and told Juan about the call. I wondered how we managed to get a call from Child Placement when we only have one bed. Juan reminded me that we actually have two more beds. Two floors below, in our basement, sits a 3-in-1 crib/toddler bed/bed waiting to be moved upstairs and assembled and the guest room bed counts as the second available. We had bought the 3-in-1 as preparation for the possibility of taking in T’s two sisters last year. Our home worker was to let Child Placement know of the extra beds if/when we said we were ready. It seems that somehow that might have happened anyways.
For the next hour, Juan and I wrestled with stuff that the call stirred up. It hurt to know that, in the middle of the night, some child out there needed help – at least a place to stay for a few days. Essentially, I said “no, we can’t help”, but was that true? We have space, beds, food, clothes and the ability to take time off if needed. And what we lack in finances lately, we make up for with lots of love and determination. What the hell are we doing with spare beds anyways, if we aren’t going to use them? How can we turn a child-in-need away? Maybe what we did for T is what we are supposed to do again?
I’m probably not explaining it as well as I could. I just know that last night I realized that I am drawn to this thing – providing a home to a kid in crisis – in a way that is difficult for me to yet understand. The thought that I might be willing to repeatedly suffer hurt again for the sake of someone else scared me more than just a little. I don’t generally see myself as that heroic, that unselfish, or that crazy. I marvel at families that take in child after child after child, but I resist it as well and I don’t entirely know why.
In the end, I did say “no” to Mr. G and to the kid I’ll probably never meet.
But I can’t stop thinking.