I was invited to a meeting of mental health providers, agencies, educators, and parents of children who have special emotional/mental health issues, or some kind of special needs. I was the only person there from a spiritual/religious community. A little bit of a fish out of water (but I tend to get myself in these situations--when I was on the board of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, it was the same kind of situation--I was the only non-agency kind of person there, but I still cared.)
I listened. I listened to parents losing their jobs because they had to spend so much time advocating for their children, I listened to a mom talk about being so isolated because there was no one she could ask to babysit because she didn't know anyone who could "handle" her child; I listened to educators who were confused about the system; and I marveled at several people in the room who were the parents of ten, five, 6 children--many of whom had been adopted through foster care system. (Forgive me, I don't know all the correct terms or processes).
I wondered...how can the church/religious community even be relevant to these families? I wanted to gather up the parents and just hold them...comfort them...encourage them....I wanted to thank the agency representatives, the educators...even the bureaucrats...well, thank you. Thank you for letting me into your world for just an hour and half today.
I don't know if I have much to contribute to the conversations I have been invited to on a monthly basis...but I will learn...and maybe, hopefully, I will learn from God why I am there.
Until then, I hold these people, this group, in my heart.