Helping kids as best as we can
“Sometimes you just have to do the best that you can. And then you have to step back and hope that it was good enough.”
That mantra about life could pertain to many things. But, it was uttered at a meeting of mentors of the Blue Earth Area Mentors (BEAM) organization last week.
Some of the mentors deal with some very serious situations with the mentees they volunteer to help with. Many of the kids are dealing with serious issues in their lives, including poverty, separated parents and family members abusing alcohol, in jail or gone away or worse, dead.
Some do not have a happy home life. Some are not doing well in school. Some say they are bullied, or report they have no friends. Some have gotten into trouble at school or with the law.
That is where the mentor comes in. They act as sort of an adult friend. They don’t replace the parent; they are not even a foster parent.
And, most are not trained as a social worker, child psychologist or guidance counselor. Although, some will say they have to become like one for their mentee once in a while.
No, they try to act like a friend, but also they are there to just be another positive adult influence in the children’s young lives.
I bring this up because this week is designated the Week of the Young Child.
So, this week we salute all of the people who make a difference in a young child’s life and there are many who do.
From parents and grandparents, to preschool teachers at places like Head Start, ECFE and Little Giants, and, of course, to groups like BEAM.
People in Faribault County who deal with issues such as children in poverty, child neglect, abuse and domestic violence will all tell you there is a surprisingly large need for organizations who can help young children.
And, they quickly add, that there are a lot of people in the county, both paid and volunteer, who are trying to do the best that they can for young kids.
And then they have to step back and hope it was good enough.
Sometimes it isn’t.
Rev. Vic Vriesen told a heart-wrenching story at last week’s Kiwanis meeting about a young man he was attempting to help many years ago.
The boy came from a home where he was one of six kids aged 6 and under. Both parents were alcoholics and there was physical abuse and neglect in the home, among many other issues.
As a 5-year-old the boy and his 6-year-old brother had to go out and steal from a convenience store to get food to bring home to their siblings, because there wasn’t any food or parents in the house.
The two older boys had to take care of their three younger siblings much of the time.
Pastor Vic met the boy when he turned 18 and he was homeless and in trouble with the law and had no where else to turn.
It was fall and the weather was turning colder.
Vriesen and his wife tried to help him as much as they could. The pastor told the young man, “even if no one else will help you, I will.”
But while the Vriesens did what they could, the young man abused alcohol and drugs and ended up in the county jail and then prison several times. He kept trying to get straight, but kept falling off the wagon.
Now, he is in his early 30s and serving a prison sentence in Wisconsin for assaulting two county deputies while he was totally intoxicated.
Sometimes when you step back and hope what you did was enough, you learn it wasn’t.
But, Pastor Vic has not given up on him. He has too much time, money and energy invested in him to give up yet, he says.
Sometimes you have to do the best that you can do. And then do a little bit more.
The young man recently called Vriesen from the prison in Wisconsin with a question.
In a group session, he had told the others about the Vriesens and their help and love for him. The other prisoners wanted to know why, and so the young man was calling to ask Pastor Vic why he was so concerned about him and why had he tried to help him all these years.
Vriesen replied simply, “because I said I would help you, even if no one else would. I gave you a promise and I intend to keep it as long as I live.”
Vriesen’s advice for this Week of the Young Child?
Give your child a hug, no matter how old they are. And your grandchildren, too.
Then give a hug and a hand up not a hand out to any child who needs one.
And, all of them do. Even when they are no longer kids.