© 2000 by jane davis All rights reserved. The following writing may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any way including electronically, without the prior written consent of the author.

The Community Raises the Child' is an Action

A few weeks ago i got a call from one of the kids i have worked with for a number of years. She was homeless and abandoned by the last man who was caring for her. She phoned from some seedy motel room. He had gone to another State for some "business" and was arrested. She was alone and had no money. i first met her, a few years ago, when i was facilitating, as part of the grass roots work of HOPE-HOWSE, a writing program with kids-at-risk . Jillayne was one of the angriest human beings i have ever met (and i've met some angry ones!!!!) but she also could not hide, as much as she tried, the glowing, beauty that also lived inside this very large, dressed-in-black-always facade. i was asked by the staff, after a trusting relationship developed between us, if i would consider mentoring her and i agreed wholeheartedly.

i call her a perfect example of our society's "throwaway kids". Her parents obviously couldn't deal with their sacred role as parents. Not all can. They passed her on and then those folks passed her on and so on. So, in her 18 years she has virtually not known stability or love as many reading this have known it. She once said to me, "I have been living in prison almost my whole life and i never did anything wrong!" When she turned 18 she was no longer eligible to be cared for by the State. She, and the other's are then expected to be productive members of society. Many are carrying deep, deep wounds that are not so easily dealt with. Of course, many deal with it just fine. But many are left with a rageful, sad void. There are answers in the challenging teaching of "the community raises the child."

Jillayne does have a handful of people who truly care about her and are supportive. Someone went and picked her up and brought her to my house. With her she also brought some "friends" .... lice and fleas. To say this was easy is far from the truth. i was horrified and itchy even without having the bugs on me! i realized how challenged i was by the principle of "the community raises the child and it's people"! However, i strongly believe that and that is the essence of the grass roots work of HOPE-HOWSE, in action. In trying to find the positive of this aspect of her being here i can say my house has never been cleaner because we keep vacuuming, scrubbing and cleaning making sure we are getting rid of the eggs.

There was no plan upon her arrival, but there was plenty of love. While that may sound fluffy and irrelevant, often it is the strongest medicine of all. Her first night here i was having a meeting of some of the infrastructure and other supporters of HOPE-HOWSE. i had arranged for a couple of men i work with on death row to phone at 8 PM so that everyone could speak with them and experience the human aspect that is often missing from words. The men on the rows and in prison are always so eager to help with the kids we work with so it was a true miracle all the way around and quite an evening for all around.

i took Jillayne for a check up and we were told by the health clinic that she was about 15 weeks pregnant. We began scouring the city for support and placements so that she could begin learning how to care for her unborn child let alone herself. Last week one of her interviews did a routine pregnancy test and we were told that she is NOT pregnant! What an oddity as well as a true miracle.

i have called on a number of people in this community for help with Jillayne. Help like allowing her to stay in their home when i had to go make a prison visit or to come here for dinner to share community with her and us. Help for referrals to programs that will help her better herself and get education and job skills. Jillayne is here right now, one day at a time. This particular girl has so much to offer the world. She just has never had a chance. She is so bright with an active mind and a yearning to LIVE despite her many, many attempts to kill herself. She is a miracle. (btw: years ago she allowed me to post one of her poems on the HOPE-HOWSE website. It's in the Gallery section.) It's hard to explain Jillayne except to say - i love her, i trust her and she has earned that. She holds answers that many seek. Chris Berger, whose execution i witnessed in 1993 was in her situation when he committed the crime for which he sat for 17 years on death row before we executed him.

In Judaism blessings are said over the bread and wine. It is often said that the food and drink exists merely as the opportunity to say the prayers and foster transcendence. Maybe the same is true for kids like Jillayne and Chris. She and the others offer us all the opportunity to open our hearts and homes (literally), to be challenged by our own fears and opinions, to transcend into another consciousness called "unconditional love."

***************************** UPDATE: Jillayne is doing GREAT! As of today (9/7/00) we got her enrolled in the Jobs Corps where she will finish her GED and get job training in computers. She has come a long way from the angry young lady she was. Please keep her in your prayers. She CAN make it!

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