Sunday, January 8, 2012

Schism Sunday XVIII: Cute Desperation

Have you seen those commercials with Sarah McLachlan’s In the Arms of the Angel playing and all the sad puppies and kitties? I’m sure you have. They get me every time. Every time I see one of those commercials pleading with me to save these animals who only know abuse and neglect by donating to the ASPCA I feel a small tear forming in my eye. The sad kittens and the one-eyed dog really send the message home and I find myself feeling emotionally connected to these animals. I find myself moved by their cute desperation. And then I remind myself of all the human children who only know abuse and neglect and I know it’s not cute and there are no commercials for them.



Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t help animals, and I know we have plenty of commercials of starving children in Africa (those get to me too) but I there is a entire group of children out there who don’t seem to have public advocates. And I find myself wondering about the society we live in where our emotions and our pocket books are manipulated by sad faced puppies and our damaged children are kept under wraps. Or at the very least in books where we can read the horrific conditions some children grew up in and we can privately feel disdain and disgust for these so-called parents. We feel good when we are angered by these stories, and yet we’ve done nothing but read a book.

Now I know there are countless state agencies who’s job is to advocate for these children. I know that there are programs in place that are supposed to protect the innocent. I have had the misfortune to work for an under funded program that was supposed to be in the work of saving children. Unlike the sad puppies and kitties on TV these children many times, aren’t cute, and they can’t be fixed with a bath, a few Band-Aids, and food. I’ve been spit on and punched by the pre-teen who can’t figure out why she is so angry and why she is scared to be loved. The same little girl who still feels the guilt of trying to save her baby brother from a night in the bath tub because her parents were drunk but whose 3 year old arms couldn’t hold a wet slippery baby. I’ve fallen in love with the smelly, chubby 17-year-old schizophrenic with a penchant for severe self-harm whose mental ability is trapped at 7 years old. She wasn’t getting better but she was safe until mom realized her medicare payments would end so she should come home. I’ve met the emotionally distant adult man who’s boyhood years were spent in a dark basement eating scraps thrown on the floor- who was only rescued when his brother was found dead. To most, these children are not cute and can’t even elicit the oohs and aws that kittens can when shown with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background.

There are a group of people who choose to work with them- either because they want to make a difference or they can’t get a job elsewhere. Most will last a year or two before the low wages and high stress will force them into another arena. Some just can’t face the statistics that tell them most of the children they try to love will end up in jail before they turn 19. Others will last longer having successfully built a concrete cocoon around their hearts, they’ve convinced themselves they are working with criminals and not damaged children to justified their cold, distanced interactions. The funding for such programs is small and shrinking and the applicant field for employees is less than stellar. These children have no commercial, no 1-800 number to give your credit card info too. They are the hidden and forgotten ones.

So my question is, do the commercials of these poor innocent animals reflect the condition of our hearts in America? Is it right to generate public out cry for abused and neglected animals while most people never know of our abused and neglected children? If it’s not right, is it “wrong”? What do you think the answer is to our hurting children? Is it more programs? More funding? More awareness? More of Christ in this world? More people willing to love as Jesus did? Is the answer political? Have I ruined those ASPCA commercials for you yet?