Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven. ~ Matthew 18:10
Christmas Day is rapidly approaching for people all over the world, but life and its joy and tragedies doesn’t hold still for Americans, or anyone, on that fact alone. In America, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, there is enough misery to go around for all. Although many are suffering the physical ailments brought on by debilitating disease and old age, and seeing their deterioration and decline to a mere shadow of their former selves hurts their loved ones deeply, and there are many thousands of Americans suffering in poverty, or from homelessness, it is the plight of our children that concerns me most this season.
Some may call it happenstance, but I like to think of it as God moving Us to act, when we come in contact with great spiritually minded people who have taken on a mission to help others. I had the opportunity to meet just such a wonderful person, Ruth Meyer [Ruthie to her friends] who lives in the Blackman Community of Rutherford County, TN., on December 7th, 2018, by way of a casual question in Walmart and seeming chance.
Ruth’s hat read “Mama Bear” and prompted me to ask if that had anything to do with Sarah Palin. She told me “No” and explained her husband had given it to her. And then she entered into one of the most wonderful and precious stories I had heard in many a long year. She and her husband had seven children, all of which she is very protective. Two are their natural born children and five were adopted by them. They started this eleven years ago, after Ruth was “called by God” and led her husband to the same calling. And incredibly, she continued on to tell me that there were many others involved in this effort, like the professional educators in Smyrna, TN with four children of their own who recently adopted a sibling group of seven from infant to seventeen years old.
As Ruth explained, “They almost always come to foster care with absolutely nothing”.
Today Ruth helps Shepherd’s Closet, also known as Foster Closet, here in Rutherford County, that is an organization operated through the nonprofit Rutherford County Foster Parent Association and serves to help clothe Rutherford County children in foster care; at-risk children are also helped, but only through referrals. Since the children are already going through such a hard time in their young lives, being uprooted from their homes, Shepherd’s Closet also does the best it can to provide personal hygiene products, school supplies, toys backpacks and other items they can call their own, and it receives some loving help from Lifepoint Church, on Legacy Drive in Smyrna, TN.
Ruth’s story moved this old heart of mine to tears, and after we parted ways, I gave the issue a bit more thought. A quick search brought figures from 2013 that suggest, on average, more than two-hundred and fifty thousand children in America enter the foster care system each year, and although approximately fifty percent will return to their parents, the remainder will not.
Struggling the most, there are also more than 100,000 legal orphans in America, who are waiting in foster care in hopes of being adopted by some generous and loving family. Many of these children watch on the sidelines from afar, as the joy of Christmas is celebrated by others, and another year passes them by without any presents, no Christmas tree, and seemingly no affirmation and love from anyone and a family to call their own forever.
It was amazing to hear Ruth speak with such passion, as she informed me that she and her husband were going to receive another child on December 20th. What a Christmas present for them all.
Even more tragic in many respects, we see far too many young children suffering with cancer. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control in June of this year, about fifteen thousand youths under age twenty are diagnosed with some form of cancer every year in America. Between 2003 and 2014, there were 173.7 pediatric cancer cases per one million people. However, more than eighty percent of these victims of cancer are still alive five years later, which is a vast and dramatic improvement in treatments over the past decades, as noted by the National Cancer Institute.
One of the best and foremost warriors in this battle against cancer, America has been blessed by St Jude’s Hospital and its many benefactors, such as Marlo Thomas who is following the example set by her father, Danny. .St Jude’s homepage on Google explains quite correctly:
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. … St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes… Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.”
And all America can never forget the images of small children and their families, as July’s Carr Fire and November’s Camp Fire claimed a total of 92 lives and displaced over 100,000 Americans raged across our country. Who will ever forget 70 year old Melody Bledsoe soaking blankets in her kitchen sink to drape over her great-grandchildren, Emily and James Roberts, ages 4 and 5? The Salvation Army, Chico-based Enloe Medical Center Foundation and the Tri-Cities Bank have all set up relief funds for California’s fire victims.
Make an active choice to do something better this Christmas. Give a week, a day, even an hour of your time to an organization that helps these innocent children placed in unfortunate circumstances, through no fault of their own. Give $5000 or more, depending on your circumstances; but I daresay, these organizations will be ecstatic over each $5 bill collected, and God too will be especially pleased and satisfied by those who give, when perhaps they are not in the best place financially themselves. Let’s set aside the concerns of the politicians and government, the greedy and self-serving, and focus solely on our most cherished treasure, our little children, red and yellow, black and white — Oh so precious in His sight.
Merry, Merry Christmas and God Bless You All.
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