My friend was like gold. He was kind, compassionate, and hilarious. He saw me for me. We shared our love for abused children. We shared the pain of their lives. We understood the pain that abuse causes. We shared the passion to help them. We wanted them to know what love was. We shared the passion to make this world a better place. We weren't quitters.
I could just "be" with Chris. He got me. You know how some people are so close they finish each other's sentences? Chris finished my thoughts. And how he made me laugh! He was the funniest guy I knew. His wit was unimaginable. He even laughed at his little "elf" ears.
The first day I found out he was murdered was awful. I wanted Chris so badly because I know he would have seen the situation as I did. He would have felt my pain and taken some away. The situation is so much more than the murder of my best friend. So much more. I just couldn't share it from the beginning.
Chris worked for the area counseling agency and ran the juvenile residential program. That is how our paths crossed. Although employed by another agency, we worked on many projects together. In his 30's, Chris went back to school to get his bachelor's degree so he could help children more. Then he went on to get his masters. Just recently, he obtained his independent counseling license, which is no small feat. Chris was also a foster parent and began fostering his fourth child after I moved to another state in 2002. The boy was in middle school.
Chris loved this boy like his son. This boy was damaged. I don't know the details, but I know there was significant, severe abuse perpetrated on this child, along with a family history of mental illness. I believe he was in permanent custody due to the severity of the abuse perpetrated by his parents, who had a history of mental illness and drug abuse, from what I can recall. The boy was accepted in the family. He called Chris "Dad" and Chris' father "Grandpa." He had a good relationship with Chris (who couldn't?)
Even after the boy turned 18, Chris allowed him to stay in his home. He tried to help the boy with holding a job, college and more. Even though the boy had increasing mental health problems recently, Chris was not going to give up on him.
The boy now stands accused as the murderer of Chris. The one person in this world who loved him unconditionally.
I don't doubt that this boy did this horrendous act, quite possibly in a psychotic state. But I do question what really took my friend's life. Was it the boy who committed the act or the demon of child abuse that exists in our society? Who was there to protect this child when he was young? Who stood up for him?
I have no idea what was going on with this boy when he committed this heinous act, but there are some things I do know. This boy had genetics going against him from the start. Then he was victimized. He was damaged. His psyche was altered. And he did the unthinkable.
Let this be a lesson to all of us to reach out and protect our children. Maybe we look the other way and say it is just poor white trash. Maybe we don't want to get involved. Maybe we are afraid to get involved.
These kids get abused at home. Then they go to school and most do not do well in school academically or behaviorally. They get in trouble. They get labeled, they get picked on, just adding to their abuse. They suffer from depression, anxiety or a host of other mental conditions. By their teen years, they may start self-medicating with illegal substances. The may get involved in criminal activity. They may do the unthinkable.
We like to think it is not our problem, but it is. Look at how Chris' death has impacted the community he lived and worked in. Suddenly, over night, this foster child's problems became ours.
This is a call to action! If you suspect child abuse, please, please, please call the authorities. You can do so anonymously. And don't be surprised if nothing happens. Funding to children's protection agencies are limited. Sometimes, proof is hard to find. But that shouldn't stop you. Build a relationship with the child. Give that child hope. Let that child know someone cares about him/her. It can make a world of difference to a child trapped in a hell.
I have always loved this story below, written anonymously. I think it says it all.
A SIMPLE LESSON:
A rat looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife
opening a package. What food might it contain? He was aghast to discover
that it was a rat trap. Retreating to the farmyard the rat proclaimed the
warning; "There is a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!"
The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Excuse me, Mr.
Rat, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence
to me. I cannot be bothered by it."
The rat turned to the pig and told him, "There is a rat trap in the house, a
rat trap in the house!"
"I am so very sorry Mr. Rat," sympathized the pig, "but there is nothing I
can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers."
The rat turned to the cow. She said, "Like wow, Mr. Rat. A rat trap. I am in
grave danger. Duh?"
So the rat returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the
farmer's rat trap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a
rat trap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught.
In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the
trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife.
The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now
everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took
his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.
His wife's sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with
her around the clock. To feed them the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer's wife did not get well. She died, and so many people came for
her funeral that the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all
of them to eat.
So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it
does not concern you, remember that when there is a rat trap in the house,
the whole farmyard is at risk.
"Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9d)