going insane

Two weeks ago my son and I witnessed something fairly disturbing and the fact that I have found no resolution since the incident generally means I need to write about it. Here goes.

I was playing outside with my son one morning when I heard intense screams across the street. I glanced upward to see my neighbor, who I’ll call Jill, and her fifteen or so year-old daughter, who I’ll call Anna. Anna was standing in the garage naked, wearing simply a towel, listening to her mother scream hysterically about some lost object or document. Jill became so hysterical that she moved inside and a few minutes later I heard her beat something or someone. It was so loud that I stopped and wondered if I should call the police. Since Anna did not scream in pain I assumed that Jill had hit the wall and not her daughter. Then Jill got into her car and drove away.

About five hours later I was feeding my son dinner when I heard a woman weeping hysterically in the street behind our house. I looked outside to see Jill stumbling up the street, screaming hysterically again, weeping, cursing, etc. For the next hour Jill had a breakdown on our cul-de-sac while Anna watched on in silence. She literally paced up and down the street, cursed the air and an estranged husband, cried and called out to him. I have interacted with mentally unstable people before and it never caught me so off guard as watching this.

She was so hysterical that I wondered how seeing this would affect Anna. I walked over to her and asked her if she was okay. This definitely surprised her. I sensed she may not feel safe and I asked her if she would like to come into my home. She said yes but Jill walked up right then, asking to use my phone, so Anna drew back. I told her to knock on my door at any time if she needed to.

My son and I continued to play on the street and I was relieved when a neighbor snuck by. I stopped him and asked if he had talked to them and he told me that this was typical behavior of Jill and that the best thing I could do would be to stay away, especially since I have a child.

I was floored. The response of everyone on my street was to ignore this woman (another neighbor told me a few weeks ago that she and her husband didn’t talk to her because she was a bit unstable) and I watched to see if anyone even bothered to come out of their houses. No.

I can still hear her screams in my head. I realize that in part this incident affected me so much because I was absolutely appalled by the neighbor’s response. Here was a woman literally losing her mind in plain view of everyone and they chose to stay in their houses or drive away and not look at her. Don’t get me wrong; I would not risk putting my child in danger if I thought she were violent but it got me thinking: do I want my child to grow up thinking that when the neighbors have a problem we just lock our front door and pull the curtains? My neighbor said it was a shame that Jill ‘felt the need to bring the conflict outside’. Sadly, that woman in that instance was more authentic than I’ve seen anyone else be.

I don’t want to respond simply by judging my neighbors but I want to learn from this so that my husband and I teach our child that we can offer support to people in turmoil or people who just want to borrow a cup of sugar. I found myself asking Anna if she was all right because a. no teenager should have to cope alone with that and b. I’d want someone to do the same.

Why the incident continues to bother me…I’m not sure. Any thoughts are welcome.

internal dilemma update

Last week we went online and donated money for groceries to be delivered to our sponsor child. After over-analyzing the issue it seemed quite clear: Whether the child got the food or her guardian pawned it for favors did not matter. What mattered was that we tried to get it to her. One day we will actually meet her and find out if it helped. What decided the issue for me was the fact that we had sent her about five outfits over the summer and when our friends arrived there and gave them to her, in all the pictures they took that week she was wearing the clothes. Her clothes.

We got feedback about our donation and the co-founder apologized, stating that letters are usually screened so that children don’t ask sponsors for money or items. I found myself glad that they overlooked it.

internal dilemma

For over a year my husband and I have sponsored a child that lives in the slums in Central America. The money that we donate allows the child, who I will call Alex, to attend an after school program (which is in fact a school). We found out from close sources that at this school he gets his only meal of the day.

We were recently puzzled by some letters we received from him. Upon asking several questions we found out that Alex has been missing school because his mother, a promiscuous woman, prioritizes being on the streets. Alex told us that all he wanted for the holidays was food. This broke our hearts.

We had sent money for food a few months ago and an employee from the organization personally delivered it to the family. But, if Alex’s mother doesn’t prioritize him, do we send food again? Would she be so desperate to trade food for favors or items she deems more important? Did the food we sent Alex two months ago even reach his mouth?

My husband and I find ourselves at a loss because we know that ultimately we cannot save Alex. We hope to fly to Central America in the next few months and meet him and while we agree that that would be a very good thing for us to do as a couple, our new knowledge of Alex’s life leaves us conflicted.

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Some Jesuses should be rejected.
Rob Bell, Love Wins