Unfulfilled dreams are something we all struggle with. I don’t think I would be going out on a limb to say that the dreams of kids waiting in foster care are non-existent or at the very least, in the tank. These kids may not even know how to dream or why to dream. They may not ever even entertain the idea of dreaming. Dreams that aren’t dreamed can’t come true. And maybe its easier that way.
This thought came through to me loud and clear during our December Christmas party for waiting kids at Fellowship Bible Church. Fellowship’s congregation provided amazing Christmas gifts for almost 100 kids and an over-the-top party that was a huge blessing. We had over eighty waiting kids and about 80 waiting families at the event and cannot wait to see how many kids actually met their forever families on this special day.
There were gorgeous decorations, a joyous authentic Santa Claus, delicious food and kids dressed in festive clothes. But one girl; one story stands out above all the rest. I never saw her, but Caryl. Caryl had coordinated the entire event and was ‘manning’ a station by the exit where the kids picked up their bags of gifts. She combed over her lists and helped find names as she moved through the neat piles of toys and clothing and bicycles. Two girls approached to ask about their gifts. Caryl recognized them because she and I have moved their pictures for years in our Heart Gallery exhibit. When she asked them what they wanted for Christmas and what they had put on their wishlists, one of the girls, a 14 year old, said “I didn’t give them a list.”
Caryl knew that gifts had been purchased for this girl, but before she found the bag the girl continued “I just hope there’s an Easy-Bake Oven”.
“An Easy-Bake Oven?” Caryl said knowing there was no Easy-Bake oven in her bag, I mean, she was 14 after all.
“Yes, she replied. I’ve wished for one since I was 6 years old.”
Broken and determined, Caryl thought fast. She remembered that I had brought in a bunch of toys and clothes that I had purchased for two children that were last minute additions to our master list and that in that menagerie of stuff was an unwrapped Easy-Bake Oven. The ONLY Easy Bake Oven that either of us had added to any list (and we had LOTS of them) or purchased during the entire Christmas season. Without hesitation, Caryl turned and quietly placed the priceless oven into this girls’ bag. If we couldn’t do anything else that day or this Christmas season we could make an 8-year-old unfulfilled dream come true for this long-waiting teen.
My heart breaks for her, because I know her story and it is heartbreaking. She has waited and waited and waited. She has been through things most of us cannot even imagine. And yet her dream was so simple; an Easy Bake Oven. Wonder what she thought when she looked in the bag? Wonder what she would think if a more tangible and enduring dream came true; if she felt the love and nurture and support and encouragement and stability of a forever family?
Its a new year filled with new resolve to dream big, pray bold, stand firm and press on. Its time to persevere in the fight and never ever give up until every single waiting child is home.