We walked in to the DMV of child institutions today. Hopeless lines filled with downtrodden people. I do not know their stories, though they each had one etched into their faces. They were not open books, nor were they inviting anyone to read them. In a place like this, eye contact is a threat and communication is less about connection and more about explanation. We smiled at a few, but mostly we glanced away, not wanting to judge, not wanting to fear.
This place is going to be more and more in my future and I did learn today to unstuff my pockets before going in next time. It’s pretty hilarious to see what I can pull out of a coat should I be forced to on the fly. I think today I had a Buzz Lightyear toy, a marker, a glove (not a pair), a plethora of writing utensils, some bit of string, and a lonely sock. I’m all awesome like that. Oh, and my keys and my phone. I did set the scanner off because I forgot to pull my phone out. I will know better next time.
E3 was not super excited to return with us, but he didn’t fight it either. And I felt for him. He loves his family. I want him to love his family. I want his family to love him. I want them to be a good situation for him. I really really want that.
But then the Dunham family Tuesday night schedule kicked in and he just came along for the ride. We have a tight window between drama for Maddie and Chloe and choir for all four and usually end up at a fast food joint between one place and the other every Tuesday. For some odd reason tonight we picked a random McDonalds in town. And when we got out of the car, E3 got really excited to see someone in the parking lot because he saw a member of his family. It took me a couple of minutes to clue in that he wasn’t just yelling a greeting at a random stranger – this was no stranger to him. And the person was yelling a greeting back and I thought this person was just playing with some random kid for a moment until I realized this was wasn’t just a goofy encounter between a little kid and a caring adult. It was his _______. As this person was talking to someone else and we were working our way through the parking lot and into the restaurant, I simply said, “WOW! I’d love to meet you if you want to come back in!” And we continued to walk in. We ordered and the person came in. He was so excited and wanted to be held by _______. I surrendered him for a moment while chatting with _______ for a little bit. I was asked for my name and I gave it (first name only) and then asked what E3 called this person because I wanted to make sure I was using the right name at home. I was told. And then E3 said he wanted to go home with _______ but _______ was decent about the whole thing and said they would be seeing E3 again really soon and I also assured E3 he would be seeing _______ again soon and that we had french fries waiting for him at the table (good move, eh? bribery by Happy Meal…please don’t judge…). He came back to me with little protest and as I was carrying him to our table, I looked back at _______ and said, “I want you to know we’re caring for him for you and we will do the best we can with him while he’s with us.” _______ nodded back at me with a sad smile and walked out.
And then we finished our time as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, yet all the time marveling at the odds that that encounter just took place and then remembering that odds don’t really factor into situations like this at all. But God does. I have no idea why He chose to orchestrate this encounter the way He did tonight. Perhaps to give me a better glance into E3’s situation. Perhaps so I could pray with a face in mind. Perhaps just to add a little humanity into the stack of paperwork I was given. Perhaps. Perhaps I’ll never know.
And I’m okay with that.