I first met her in 2006. On that trip she buddied up to me, never leaving my side. She was 15 then, and full of anger and resentment. Her story was difficult to hear, her anger just under the surface of her forced smile. But for whatever reason, she felt she could share with me. And she did. She shared with me the reason for the scars on her arms and face, the reason she resented her younger sister, and she shared the anger she had towards her mother. She also shared with me her heart, her fears, and her love.
The scars on her arms were from her mother. The results of cigarette burns and wild attacks. The scars on her face from mother as well. The results of punches that split open the cheeks and lips. The anger towards her mother was justified. The resentment towards her sister, misplaced. You see, the younger sister was completely innocent save the fact that she was younger, smaller, and cuter. She got all the attention, all the looks, all the love.
After only a couple of years at Shadow, my buddy was removed from the home. She could never control her anger or resentment, often doling out punishment on her sister. Having never received respect from her mother, she was unable to give to others. She was defiant, she was devious, she was dangerous. For the administration and the judge it was an obvious decision. For me it was devastating. I didn’t expect to ever see her again. And didn’t for eight years.
A year after moving to Guatemala, I was blessed to see her again. Eight years is a long time, but it could have been eighteen. She is now 23, but looks 33. A hard life leads to hard lines on the face. An anger filled life, leads to stress on the body. Carrying the load of resentment is like carrying the load of an ox. I was happy to see her, but sad to see her. She still had the same curves to her forced smile, but the curves of her eyes drooped and sagged. She had gained weight from carrying her first child, but carrying the weight of her past had taken a greater toll.
As expected she is following the example she was given. A life of poverty and struggle is hers. A life of strife and hardship is wearing her down. But, her relationship with her sister has mended and they now talk on occasion. And thankfully she hasn’t followed the pattern of abuse that plagued her childhood. She is raising her daughter without the beatings, without the cursing, without the attacks of anger. But, without the opportunities that every little one should have, as well.
When a child leaves Shadow, we never really know where or how they will end up – especially with those that stay only a short time. We do all we can while we have them and leave the rest to God. I don’t exactly know what her relationship with the Lord is like, but I do know what her relationship with her daughter is like. And it’s good. She loves and adores her. Hopefully, her time at Shadow was just enough to make the difference. While she was here, she encountered Jesus. Now her daughter knows Him too. The baby doesn’t yet know Him as Savior, she’s only two. But she does know Him through the love of her mom, who despite her difficult past, refuses to give in to anger and resentment anymore.
My buddy in this story just recently lost her second child, shortly after giving birth. As I write this, her first born is staying with her aunt (who is the younger sister in the story) who is now living independently as an adult herself. Because the aunt is still a part of the Shadow family, I get to see her niece. She doesn’t look much like her mother, but she looks happy. She’s smart and adorable and loved very much. Just like her momma, she’s special to me. And just like her momma, I’m trying to make her my buddy.