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Archive for December, 2015

Inner Peace

The snow fell quietly on the little hill with the softness of swan feathers, blanketing the ground around the tiny log cabin. Wispy drifts cascaded down the roof and gathered around the windowsills as if to cradle the tiny abode in tender winter love. The stillness was almost deafening, and it brought a peace that would calm even the most restless of souls. The chilly air was so unblemished that nothing could linger in it that was not pure and fresh and new. As I began approaching the cabin, every crunching step a stark contrast to the silence echoed into the night air. I sensed a heightened awareness of the contradiction of the cold snowy night outside, and the warm glow radiating from the windows. The impression was rivaled in its brilliance only by the stars that studded the inky black sky above me, and the immense full moon that hovered above it all, making everything else in the scene seem small. I lingered, taking in the symmetry. Dark and light, quiet and sound, cold and warm, exposure and shelter, immense and small. There in the balance, was inner peace.

Janet Lynn Egan

Winter 2015

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A Christmas Tale

Christmas has always been a very special time for me. I am so inspired by the idea of looking inward to the good that dwells in us as a human race and finding it there even in the most unexpected places. The idea of love, kindness, and good will toward others awakens something in me that burns deep, but sometimes needs its flames fanned. But when those fires are stoked, I am happiest and most fulfilled. I feel this deeply at Christmastime.

I have accumulated many memories over the years of this fulfillment during the season. I would like to tell a tale of one of those years, an experience I will cherish always.

Keith and I were working for Community Service Foundation in Bucks County Pennsylvania. We were employed as House Parents for a Group Home of 6 teen boys. Categorized as Youth in Crisis, these boys were placed by the court in these Group Homes across the county as an alternative to Juvenile incarceration. The situations that landed them there were varied. For some it was drugs, others anger issues, criminal activity, theft, acting out in school or just plain unmanageable behavior. Many of these boys were merely a product of their upbringing and environments. Some had been abused or neglected. Many came from broken homes and the most impoverished areas of Philadelphia where crime and drugs were a way of life. And then there were the occasional situations where a boy would come in from an intact middle class family. But for whatever reason, he was not on a good path. We even had a Minister’s son placed with us. In the two years we worked there we functioned as House Parents to more than a dozen boys, since some only stayed for a few months and new boys were placed with us. We experienced drug addiction, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, mentally handicapped, and the like. I definitely believe we did a good job making a difference in the young men’s lives while we were there but I don’t take credit for it. I do believe that we were divinely inspired every step of the way, otherwise we could not have done it. In addition,  we had tons of support and training. Each boy had a counselor, a probation officer and school support through the organization run school they attended.

It was Christmastime in our second year on the job. I had begun the season feeling a bit depressed since this time of year was so special to me and I felt so stifled in my ability to do all the things that brought me so much joy around the holidays. We lived in the home we worked so I did not have my own home to decorate the way I wanted to. There were some decorations available for the home but not like I was accustomed to decking the halls of my own abode. Our time off was limited so I could not look forward to much time visiting family. I missed my kids and Grandkids who all lived in another state. I couldn’t entertain for the holidays. I started off feeling bleak and I was wondering how much longer we could continue doing this. The daily grind of dealing with constant issues with the boys was not setting the stage for a very merry season.

Being the resilient person that I am, I came to the decision eventually that I was going to make the season the best it could be with the resources I had. I decorated as best I could, played my Christmas music, baked cookies and began showering the spirit of Christmas onto the members of our household. At an after school meeting around the dining table, a daily event, I talked to the boys about Christmas and how we could make the best of it even amid their problems. We talked about the spirit of giving, and presented ideas of how we could do something fulfilling for someone else, that would enrich our lives in the process. The younger ones were more excited, still having hearts that were tender enough to ignite hope, the more hardened boys reluctantly agreed to go along. One thing I had going for me in influencing them was that they liked and respected me. Keith and I made every effort to make them feel like ours was a real home with loving and encouraging houseparent’s that truly cared about them. Yes, they were on lockdown, they did not have freedom to come and go, there were rules, rules, rules. But they were safe and cared for. The Boundaries paired with reward and kindness made them feel loved.

I presented to them, a needy family that we were going to adopt for the holidays. I had gotten the contact from a local church we attended. Likely some of these boys came from more needy families than the one we were adopting. Some never knew what it was like to get a load of Christmas presents under the tree or have a refrigerator full of holiday foods. Some of them had very little material things of their own. But I convinced them that helping a needy family would be fun.

The weeks to follow were an experience I will never forget. Of Course Keith and I had the means to go out and buy food and gifts for this family and I could involve the boys in the delivery, but I wanted to have them do more. Our household had a limited recreation budget, that was to be used for just that, recreation for the boys. As the spirit began to ignite in their hearts they decided to donate their monthly budget to purchase gifts for the needy family. We baked cookies, made tree ornaments, took trips to the dollar store. I will never forget how I watched the miracle unfold as the spirit of Christmas, and acts of kindness melted these young men’s hearts and healed their wounds in the process, even if for only a few weeks. One memory that stands out most was of one of our most hardened young men. I had given them each a name of a member of that family and asked them to come up with something they could give, material or not, to that person. He came to me one afternoon. He was around 16, towered over me at 6 feet tall. He had adopted one of the family members, a young boy age 12. He humbly said to me, I want to do something for that boy because I remember being his age. He proceeded to remove a cross, on a chain, from his neck and handed it me. I held back a lump in my throat. It was imitation and not much material value but I knew it had sentimental value to him and he cherished it. I also understood that despite all the wrong he had done and bad choices he had made, this gesture made him feel good about himself. I handed it back and told him he would give it to the boy himself, when we delivered the packages.

When the time came to deliver, we piled into the company provided van, and headed into the worst and most impoverished area of Philadelphia. It was nighttime, and as we drove through the streets, Christmas music softly playing in the Van, there was a hush that overcame us as we witness out the frosted windows on that very cold winter night, dozens of homeless people, teenagers buying drugs on street corners and some even shouting to us as we drove by. A few of the boys who had been from this area were telling us to lock the doors and be careful. When we arrived at our destination there was some confusion as to exactly where the residence was and as Keith and a few of the older boys got out of the van with Santa like Sacks over their shoulders, a few people shouted from their balconies, over here Santa !! Finally safely in the apartment, a grateful family was blessed that night, and again I held back the lump in my throat as I watched our broken boys, administer kindness, although awkward, they did their best. It was a Christmas memory I will forever cherish in my heart. I think of these boys often. There were many hard times during the 2 years we spent working for community Service Foundation, it was not easy, but when I think of the boys, I remember this first and foremost. I truly hope that experience was a stepping stone toward a better path in each and every one of their lives.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Janet Lynn Egan , Dec 2015.

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The Jack Chronicles Dec 7, 2015

Last night Daddy came home. I knew he was coming for a while before he did because I could feel Mommy waiting for him. I am so glad he is here again to pet me and let me sit on his lap and take naps with him. But I am nervous that something is up again. These crazy big boxes with wheels and handles are still around. They were out before we went on that scary long ride in the sky. And then we lived with Danielle and Jerry and Tyler and Jay for a while. I was happy to see them but then the boxes came out when Mommy and Daddy went away and left me there. Then they came back with the boxes and they moved them around again putting things in and out of them. Then we went on another long scary ride in the sky. When we came home I thought it was over. But then Daddy moved the boxes around and put things in and out of them and HE went away for a really long time. I still see those boxes. Tonight Daddy showed me that he was putting them away in the closet one by one. I will feel better once I don’t see them anymore.

Jack

 

 

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10863984_10204502039343909_8944894851557678598_oThe Jack Chronicles: November 1, 2015.

Last night was very strange. All the humans that live on my turf were outside. Mom and Dad took me out and I was very excited to see some of my favorite Humans. Everyone fussed over me in the silly outfit that seemed to make Mommy so happy to have me wear. Some of my favorite humans let me come on their lap. The humans that are close to the ground, made me a little nervous when they all wanted to touch me, it was still ok . It was a nice night until something very sketchy happened. A large band of strangers that I never saw before started coming down the street toward our turf. I could not tell if they were humans or animals.They just came and came. I growled but Mommy held me and would not let me go to defend us. They were frightening. They had scary clothes and strange faces and many of them carried big sticks in their hands. Mommy brought me in the house when she saw I was upset but when she was not looking for a second the door was open a crack and I ran out that door as fast as I could into the Culdesac to chase them all away.I barked and barked at them. Some stopped and stared me down and I just kept barking, get out of here ! Mommy and Daddy did not understand. They kept calling me and trying to catch me but I knew they didn’t understand we were all in danger. They kept saying it was ok and it was hard to trust them, but finally when mommy called from the open front door promising me a treat I decided I’d better listen. I ran back into the house. Mommy told me I was being a bad boy. I didn’t understand why, but she gave me a treat anyway. I think it was for coming back in. I hope those sketchy strangers don’t ever come here again with their sticks and hoods and scary faces and clothes.
Jack

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