As I mentioned in part 1, I had an unexpected tragedy as a teenager. But what I didn’t know was what it would prepare me for just a few years later.
One day, I got the call. I had been assigned a case, a 16-year-old boy’s mother had died in a one-vehicle car crash on her way to work. She had suffered a heart attack while driving, her car to end up colliding into a power pole. She had been a manager at a local restaurant. There was no father in the picture.
“Where’s the teenage boy?” I asked.
“At the high-school, it seems,” the office secretary said as she handed over the file folder, “a sheriff’s deputy is with him.”
It was my responsibility to figure out where the boy would end up. This only grew more difficult as time went by. I discovered there were no family members. She had been a single mother, raising her son all alone for a long time.
By now, I knew finding a foster home for an older teenager would take many hours. Once found, he would likely be sent to one several counties away. Not only that, but the thought of placing the teenage boy who just lost his mother in a complete stranger’s home was a recipe for disaster when it came to the boy’s emotional state of mind. But there was no one around that I had spoken to at the school that knew anyone willing or able to care for him. There was no one.
At 25 years old, I was certainly out of my element. I had never encountered this challenge before. Foster care seemed like the only solution for *Ben, but I hated it for all the obvious, unfair reasons.
Ben was stone-cold quiet, his eyes frozen in space, his shoulders crouched over with his elbows on his knees, his chin buried in his hands. He sat alone.
In the school guidance counselor’s office, I met Ben for the first time.
“Are you Ben?” I asked as I entered the room, nodding to the sheriff’s deputy who stood in the hallway.
He nodded, solemnly.
I knew what he had been told.
His life felt like an avalanche, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. And that was likely an understatement.
“Well, Ben,” I said, “how are you?”
“I don’t really know,” he said.
“Well, I’m not going to say I know how you feel because I don’t. But I will say that I lost a parent I loved at your age, and I know how that feels.”
He was quiet.
“I need your help, Ben. I have a problem that I’m dealing with and I believe you’re the only one who can help me.”
He looked up.
“You’re old enough to understand this. So I’m going to say that I can tell your mother was a very kind, caring woman. Did she have any close friends?”
He thought for a minute.
“The reason I ask is because it is my job today to find out where you should go, where you should live. I’m the kind of person who does not like putting children into foster homes, having you live with strangers that you don’t even know who they are, so I am searching for someone who may be willing and able to care for you.”
“Well. *Ms. Linda down the road was real good friends with my mama. They’ve known each other awhile,” he said.
“Good,” I said, “Do you know her address?”
(It was a shot in the dark, as a judge would have to approve anyone that took Ben into their home.)
“No. I don’t. But I can tell you what the mobile home looks like and describe it for you,” Ben said.
A few minutes later, I found Ms. Linda’s home on an old dirt road. I knocked on the old trailer door and was greeted by a sweet voice who was saddened by the news. Ms. Linda said she had known Ben and his mother for several years.
Walking inside the old mobile home, the floors were bare wood, the doorways were separated by curtains and the living room had an old couch and aged furniture. The refrigerator had food and there was room for Ben to sleep. Ms. Linda had no criminal history record.
“Are you sure you’re willing to take on another teenage boy?” I asked her as she already had two of her own sons in the home.
“Where else would Ben go?” she asked.
“A foster home,” I said.
She nodded her head, “No that’s not okay with me. He can live here for as long as he needs to, we will figure the rest of it out.”
The next day, the judge approved Ms. Linda as the legal guardian of Ben.
That day, I learned that it takes a special human being to be willing to help heal the wound of another mother’s child, to invite him in as if he were her own son and to be able to provide a safe place for him.
More often than not, you won’t find these selfless people in the media. You won’t find them on social media. You’ll find them tucked in the corners of the world, where love grows… unconditionally.