Boxes. What do you think of when you hear that word? For some of us it may bring up images of moving. Where the boxes are overwhelmingly stacked throughout the house, and we dread unpacking them. If you love to be organized, like I do, the word boxes puts a twinkle in your eye. Because it means a place for something so your space at least looks uncluttered. For others, that word brings smiles and images of a gift received or given. The waiting in anticipation for the delivery truck bringing the latest Amazon purchase.
Less Tangible Boxes
Whatever image comes to YOUR mind, I’d like you to put it aside for a moment. And consider with me the less tangible boxes we all have in our lives. They are the boxes where we compartmentalize and sometimes place our emotions. And sometimes where we put the people around us. In my family, I have always been the one to call in a crisis. I’m pretty skilled at handling crisis situations and I’ve had a lot of practice both personally and professionally. If need be, I can stuff all my own emotions into neat little boxes and store them in the back of my brain while I meet the needs of all around me and encourage them NOT to do the same. Like the image of all the moving boxes, I’ve had to spend a lifetime unpacking all those emotions. And it’s still a work in progress!
As for putting people in boxes, I’ve found they don’t stay there any easier than our emotions. We can have the boxes in which we place people depending on how they vote, what they eat, their gender identification, the color of their skin, age, economic status or lack thereof… Need I go on? Our own lives may at least look uncluttered and organized. But sooner or later somebody’s going to slide the lid of that neat little box, and confront the label we placed on it when when we stored them away.
In fulfilling my calling, my passion, my profession, boxes are all around me. There’s the box we put the children we serve in as “unruly, broken little people.” We put the “system” in a box too, labeling it broken and beyond repair. And the parents. They belong in the box labeled “unfit.” Or “The ones who don’t love their children.” Sometimes we use labels like “lazy,” “addict,” or “abuser.”
Unpacking Our Boxes with Bridging Families
That’s where our Bridging Families program changes things. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen lives changed in a variety of programs and partnerships. Never would I pretend Bridging Families is the only way. But I will say that I’ve unpacked quite a few of those boxes in the year I’ve been working in this program. And the passion and fulfillment I receive from working with the whole family inspires me more than anything I have ever done.
Bridging Families forces us to take those boxes surrounding this work down off those neat little shelves where we like to store them in our minds. Ever noticed that when you start unpacking boxes in a move that things get messy? I mean, seriously – all that packing paper, and figuring out what to do with things once they are out of the box. And then – what do we do with ALL THOSE EMPTY BOXES?! When we start to “unpack” with our families in Bridging Families, it is the same. It gets messy. Relationships always are, right?
We bring all those labels out in the open. Don’t kid yourselves for a moment that our biological parents and their children aren’t aware of the boxes they are packed away in. Others saying “She will never change” can become “I will never change” in a parent’s mind in an instant. But in this program, we are able to come along side and let them know that we believe they can change. And then we get to walk alongside them as they unpack their own boxes. We get the joy of seeing what happens! We help them find the resources, both the physical and emotional ones, to believe in family again.
It is exciting to see what is happening these days in Bridging Families. And not just in our own cottage! We have two new Bridging Families cottages open on the Avery Campus. The first one moved children in already, and the second one will be ready soon. The three cottages have already built friendships and a sense of community. Avery campus has a new Bridging Families Supervisor. And the Winston-Salem campus is gearing up to add Bridging Families with the hiring of a Supervisor as well!
In Atwell Cottage, our family is now in Phase Three out of five phases. This means they will be with us in the cottage from Friday until Sunday each week. It is immeasurable how valuable this time is to parents, children, and to us as Bridge Parents as we move closer to Phase Five when the children will be back home full time with their parents!
Yes, we are unpacking a lot of boxes in Bridging Families and ensuring the empty ones are thrown away for good!
To find out more about Bridging Families, visit https://www.crossnore.org/foster-care/.