*Shared With Permission*

In my line of work, I don’t always get to see the happy endings.  Don’t get me wrong – I get to see things get better, get patched up, get sorted out.  Where I can, I walk with people from brokenness to a place of living more peacefully and functionally as a family.  But it’s very rare that I have the opportunity to see how my fingerprints on a heart may have actually helped it do more than survive.  On Friday, I got to see thriving – twice!

Blue Eyes and her Cherub of a baby brother were two little souls that I helped to find a home when they were in need of one.  The fairy tale of adoption became a heartbreak for all involved when some huffing and puffing ended up blowing the house down…  Adults on all sides of the scenario were devastated, guilt-ridden, disappointed, wondering what we’d missed.  But the ones who paid most dearly in the collapse were Blue Eyes and the Cherub.  They had come into this family needing it to be their last stop.  And here we were, packing bags again and getting ready for a move.  I was consumed with worry about the marks that would be left on their hearts, the kind that could far outlast any physical scar.

Move, they did – to the home that was meant to be their Forever.  And all along the way, I clucked and fussed (and drove some of the other folks involved mad, I’m sure), doing the very best I could in my endeavor to advocate for Blue Eyes and the Cherub.  I felt they had, in a way, been entrusted to me.  I took the responsibility very seriously all the way through adoption day.  The short version is that, as I must always do, I watched them fly and wished them the very best in happiness with the Mom and Dad who must have been made for them.

Years passed.  And I just so happened to run into the kids’ parents, who had Blue Eyes and the Cherub in tow.  We had a lovely few moments together, remembering the role I played in their complicated little lives all so long ago.  They offered, “Remember when,” stories and I marveled at the kids’ growth.  It’s true, they were taller… not babies anymore.  But the growth that I was celebrating had to do more with the genuine smile on his mouth and the laugh from his belly, and the peace in her eyes and the gentleness in they way she held her face.  In bearing this witness, I felt honored for the part I got to play.  Maybe, when other members of the kids’ treatment team felt like I was more of a terrorist than a therapist, it wasn’t all in vain.  I considered, while I can take far less credit than the heroes we call Mom & Dad, that the smile and the gentleness may partially be there because I was so very ginger with their little hearts while I held them.   Maybe the vigor for fighting the good fight was well placed, and the spoils were playing out in front of me in a way beyond what I could’ve conceived.

I came away from having their little arms circled around my waist again with a reminder about how important it is to pay attention, and to speak up on behalf of and stand up for those who cannot.   If we are able to do anything good at all under the umbrella of “Child Welfare” and in the wake of the biggest heartbreak that can be had by a child, it is because Redemption is always at work.  And we may count ourselves doubly blessed if we are called upon to play a part.

Jen Winkelmann