Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ties That Bind

Unless you are part of a close big family, it’s hard to imagine how the illness of a cousin could be quite so significant. Yesterday Molly and her family stopped in Birmingham on their way to Florida and visited with Geoffery and his family. This was different from the huge family reunion visits every couple of years. This was one little boy and his family reaching out to another to help.

Imagine how pleased I was to read the comment on Geoffrey’s Caring Bridge Journal today and share in Nancy’s pleasure at Robert and Geoffrey getting to know each other in a whole new way.

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially mystical I think about all the seemingly random connections that have bound us together with others. Sometimes it’s an old classmate of one of the girls that has a child born with a birth defect or perhaps a grandmother that knew me back in the day that has just received the news that her grandchild has Down Syndrome. Our connection with Steffen and the mentally ill would have never happened had Walker not met Steffen on the bus in Collierville.

The summer that Steffen ended up in the county jail might have ended differently if he had called someone else seeking help. We had the time and expertise and resources to rescue him from a system that had failed him. The great idea of civil rights and freedom for the mentally ill sounds good in theory, but failure to fund the idea and provide them with the services they needed to live outside of institutions just wasn’t working.

Jail is no place for a nineteen year old boy whose only crime seemed to be not getting along with his mother. I managed to get him a spot in a severely overstressed system, and he got good training in independent living skills and a case manager.

Geoffery having a cousin who exemplifies surviving and thriving with “liver problems” is probably important to him and his family. Geoffery has hope that after his problems are cured he can be a regular kid again, perhaps an even stronger kid than before.

I hope Geoffery is less afraid after his visit from Robert. I hope we are always part of a large web of family and friends tied together by love and caring.


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