Pastor Bill’s Story
Living at the children’s home was really scary at first. Many kids had a rough childhood and suffered abuse, neglect, or some other kind of injustice. Although I lived with a smaller group of 10-12 other boys in a dormitory-style cottage, we all still ate our main meals in a big cafeteria in the middle of campus with 65 other kids. I felt humiliated that I had become categorized as an “orphan,” but even more I was scared of all the other kids in that cafeteria. “Are they sick? Will they hurt me? I don’t belong here,” I thought.
The diversity in the cafeteria stood out to me. There were blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, girls, boys, gay, straight, fat, skinny, sick & healthy kids. I learned that misfortune doesn’t see race, sex, orientation, age or any other category. Misfortune happens to any and everybody. I spent many nights in my bed asking, “Why do I have to be the kid with drug-addicted parents? Why does my life suck? Why can’t I just blend in with the rest of the world? Why can’t my family just be normal? Why me?” I guess it doesn’t matter what life brings us, at some point we all end up asking “why me?” We all know that this world is full of injustice, but I sensed a deep unfairness with what the world had served me. This was not normal.
For me, not being normal was quickly becoming the new normal. My daily routine had become institutionalized. I was eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the cafeteria, I was riding a big blue bus everywhere, and all my school teachers knew I was “that kid” who had no parents. My clothes were hand-me-downs that came from a warehouse where church youth groups dropped off old stuff they didn’t want anymore.
I was feeling quite odd and out of place, wishing I could just get a break from the hum-drum day to day of living at a Children’s Home when my houseparents stormed the halls of my cottage, sounding the morning alarm… “Let’s go!” “Wake up!” “It’s time to rise and shine!” I sighed heavily as my bare feet hit the cold tile floor beside my bed. “Shit,” I murmured. That was my favorite cuss word. I learned it from my dad when I was younger and then I perfected the use of it as I grew older. I was really annoyed to be awake at 4 am, and the tile floor was really cold, too.
Eventually, I got dressed and waited outside with a group of kids until the big blue 53 passenger bus arrived. In very large font, the side of the big blue bus read, “Falcon Children’s Home.” It was obvious, if I ride that bus, I am not a normal kid. Everywhere we went, people stared at that bus like it was full of prisoners. They were partly right, some of those kids would actually end up in prison one day. But not today. On this day, that bus was full of vacationers.
They had planned a trip for us. Was it extravagant? No. Was it expensive? No.
Was it incredible? You bet it was.
I had never been more excited to ride in that big blue bus than I was on the day we rode down to the ocean in North Carolina and boarded a ship to go deep-sea fishing. We spent an entire day reeling in all sorts of fish from the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. The captain of the ship had a passion to “get kids hooked on fishing, not on drugs.” While the motto was cheesy, the effort was flawless. Getting a foster kid like me outside of his normal routine of daily life opened up a world of possibility for engagement, growth, healing, and learning. Every trip I ever took as a resident of the Falcon Children’s Homemade a lasting impression. My favorite memories during my six years as a foster kid include trips to the beach, deep-sea fishing, theme parks, ropes courses, fantasy lake, concerts. I’m eternally grateful for organizations like Breath Ministries, who exist to be a home away from home for kids in foster care.