It's not my story to tell.

The two-year-old girls currently living in our home are the exact same height with blonde hair and only a 0.2 pound difference in their weight.  I'm a biological mom to one and a foster mom to the other.  They're five months apart, and there has not been a day that I've gone into public with them when I've not been asked by a random stranger (if not 3-4 random strangers), "Are they twins?"  

Usually, I politely smile and say, "No they're not," and the little girls continue stuffing their faces while I continue stuffing the grocery cart.  My brief answer suffices most people's curiosity, but not everyone's.  

"Well how old are they?  Oh, they're both two and they're not twins?  Wow, how did that happen?"  

I shocked myself recently when the lady behind me in Target struck up a similar conversation.  Politely but firmly, I responded, "It really isn't any of your business."

My face immediately grew hot, and my ears turned red.  My heart was pounding as I wondered if I had said the right thing and if I should apologize for being rude.  Rarely ever am I quite so forthcoming.

I continued to think about my answer throughout the rest of the day and came to the conclusion that although I could have been more tactful, yes, I had responded correctly.

K's story is not mine to tell.  

To my close friends and family members, I can tell how her story affects me.  To her caregivers and educators, I can share pieces of her background that are pertinent to her care and education.  To the random lady at Target, you are a random lady at Target.  And however nice and caring you may be, my foster daughter's classification as a foster child is not your business.

She just started saying her name, but only when asked in a particular way.  We're working on expanding her language, but for now, we ask K, "Who are you?"  Not surprisingly, her answer is always "K" instead of "Foster Kid".  "Foster Kid" may be part of her story, but it is not who she is.  Though she has faced many difficulties in her short life, K is resilient, beautiful, and gentle.  She isn't a "poor child"  or a reason to "bless your heart," common connotations that "foster care" carries with it.  K can't speak for herself, but I guarantee that she wants people to see her for exactly the person that she is and not for the situation from which she has come.  Nobody likes to be pitied.  

As her guardian, my job is to protect K.  At this moment, that means letting her share as much or as little of her story as she wants, if and when she feels ready.   

I'm not sure how many more foster children we will have in our home over the next few months and years, but I do know that it will be my job to protect those kids, as well.  They'll all come with their own stories, and whether they are 2 or 12, whether they can speak or not, they'll decide when to tell them. 

For today, I'm just thankful that my story intersects with K's at this point in both of our lives.  Though the endings of them are unknown, the Author of our stories is kind.  For today, that is all anyone needs to know.

Hiding in Plain Sight

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During my teaching days, I found it difficult not to get annoyed when that boy in my class was literally spinning around on his knees on the carpet while everyone else sat quietly and listened to the lesson.  Or when he was still doing his puzzle, even though I had called him to line up four times.  He didn't know why he was acting that way.  I didn't really know why, either.  But I did know that his parents had split up recently, and that he was coping with that the only way his little four-year-old brain knew how.  He didn't talk about it, but in his own way, he was screaming that he needed to be heard and understood.

As I dealt with that kid's situation, I started thinking about the people around me and how many of them might not be spinning on their knees during story time but still spinning out of control, helpless to stop life's unrelenting circumstances. I wonder how many of them are concealing deep sadness or anger, aching to tell their stories but petrified by the fear that there is no one who will truly "get it."

I've known people to commit suicide before, and typical comments after such instances are, "I just never realized he was that unhappy" or, "She always seemed okay." 

People have ways of "hiding in plain sight."

 It's easy to think, "I would tell someone if I was that miserable," but would you?  Would I? 

The darkest, most ugly parts of ourselves are the ones that we tuck away, cover up, and bury so deeply that no one else can find them. 

I'd like to think that I'm honest a majority of the time, but there are still pieces of me that I'm reluctant to share with anyone, even with those who love me the most. 

When it comes down to it, I'm afraid that no one will hear me, or that those who do might judge or laugh.  My biggest fear is that no one will care.

While the tendency to hide is undoubtedly part of the human condition, I also wonder how many unheard stories would get told if there were more people who practiced the lost art of just listening.  I'm generally more encouraged by a friend's silence than by a multitude of words which amount to little more than platitudes, quick fixes, or cliches.

I guess I'm writing this because I'm daily realizing that everyone is fighting a hard battle. 

I often have a short fuse with people.  To my own sweet girls, I sometimes want to yell, "Seriously, stop acting like that.  You're driving me crazy."  When talking with the friend who is making destructive decisions because her boyfriend just broke up with her, I have to resist the urge to shake her and say, "You're being a complete fool.  Just stop."

A person's situation is never as easy as "just stop."  There is always so much more under the surface than people are willing to or feel comfortable with sharing.

So I'm challenging you today, but mostly I'm challenging myself, to have some grace with those around you.  Smile a little more than you think is necessary.  Say less.  Listen more.  Remember the times when someone has shown you kindness.  Mostly, consider everything about a person before jumping to a hasty conclusion.  The outward signs of a perfect life do not always reflect the inward state of being.