Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's Behind the Fence?

Lately, there has been much discussion about law enforcement's failure to look behind the fence in the Jaycee Dugard case.  And rightly so. This was a child held captive for 18 years.  That would be a ridiculously long time if law enforcement had never come to the house.  However, they did come to the house.  They came often and never looked behind the fence--even when alerted by neighbors.  That is inexcusable.  People everywhere are shouting "Why didn't they look behind the fence?"

But wait!  Sometimes we fail to look 'behind the fence' in our interactions with people on a daily basis.  We don't bother to look behind the facade they show.  We don't see the pain and need behind their perfect picture.  That's not true, you scream at your computer screen.  Oh, but it is, my friend.

Several years ago, I was working as an educational diagnostician in a district where the median family income was above the level eligible for any kind of assistance.  Most were considered middle class or upper middle class.  I was informed that a student who had previously dropped out of school had returned.  He had not been enrolled in school during the time he was required by federal law to be evaluated for Special Education services.  An Educational Diagnostician's worst nightmare.  It means 'drop what you are doing and evaluate this student NOW'. 

I went to the school, called for the student to come to the office, and we proceeded with the evaluation.  Sitting before me was a 19 year old boy, about 6 ft tall, weighing about 130 lbs.  He was either far too tall or far too skinny.  I could see the bones in his shoulders, face, and wrists. 

Several times during the evaluation, he put his head down on the table.  I asked if he was alright.  He answered  that his parents had kicked him out of the house a year ago.  He lived on his own in a garage apartment and worked at the pizza place.  The only time he ate was when he was at work.  He had not worked the day before so had not eaten.  I asked why he had not eaten at school and he replied that he could not afford to pay the $2.00 for a lunch. 

Immediately, I told the counselor and she began processing the paperwork for free and reduced lunch status.  He was so excited that he couldn't stand still.  That done, we knew he could eat breakfast and lunch five days a week.

On Monday morning, several weeks later, I went back to the school to visit with Zach.  He sat down, but before I could begin our conversation he said, "Miss, you should have seen what I saw last night."

"What did you see, Zach?"

"My friend's parents said I could crash at their house until graduation and I moved in this weekend.  Last night his mother called us to eat.  We sat down and I saw steak, baked potatoes, and salad.  It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.  I just sat there starring at it.  They said, Aren't you going to eat?  They didn't understand how beautiful it was."

At that moment, I thought my boys take meals like that for granted

We all tend to get wrapped up in our own worlds and forget that others may not be as blessed as we are.  Today as you are enjoying your blessings, don't forget to 'look behind the fence' of your neighbor and see their need.

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