Jillian Moore is a name most of you probably don’t know. Every week I get an email from this Jillian inviting me to take part in the weekly Shelter Night at the Pauline E. Mayer Children’s Shelter. It’s an opportunity for people in the community to go into the local shelter and spend time playing games or just talking with the kids who are staying there. It has been too long since I’ve been part of this shelter night, but I’ll never forget the times that I have been touched by my experiences there.
One night in particular was in October of 2013. Before our first placement, my wife and I were figuring out ways to engage in the issue of foster care while our paperwork and training were being processed. We decided to go take part in one of these shelter nights. The night we chose to go was the night of the Halloween Party for the shelter. They had decked the gym out with different games, a bounce house and a table full of Oriental Trading or Dollar Tree prizes. The kids would get tickets from the different games and could exchange them for fun things.
When we arrived at the shelter and got all checked in we went down to the gym where they paired us up with a different kid for the different age specific shifts. I was TERRIFIED! Was I going to be awkward? Was this kid going to like me? Was he going to be mean? Was he going to be a terror? It didn’t take long for me to completely melt over the kid I was paired with. I was following him around collecting tickets, helping him knock down bottles, shoot baskets and jump in the bounce house (I couldn’t bounce, too big. This was my only complaint). It was an absolute blast.
On the ride home with my wife, I began to break down. I couldn’t believe this beautifully sweet, loving and gentle 4-year-old boy had to live in a shelter for any amount of time. He deserved to have a home, a bed to call his own and parents who love and care for him. Even if his stay was just a few days, would those days not be better spent in the loving care of a foster family?
That was the final straw for me. No more could I turn a blind eye to the issue at hand. We had already decided to be foster parents at this point and were finishing up the first of the few steps to get our first placement, but in that moment, everything I was moving toward was completely affirmed. I wanted ALL OF THE CHILDREN!
You see, there’s something dangerous that happens to a society that throws up blinders and acts as if everything is okay in the world. There are also moments, like the ones I was fortunate enough to experience, where in spite of our apprehension we let the blinders down, encounter a need face-to-face and are changed forever by it.
It’s a simple act of courage and love.
It’s one night of your life, just a few hours, spent showing love to a child in need.
Be ready though, once you jump in, life will never be the same.
You’ll never forget a face you encountered, the story you heard, the laughter you shared, or the tears you cried.
But it is infinitely worth it. There is something deep within us, in the midst of it all, that realizes that this is in fact, part of what we are created to do.
For more information about the shelter and how to volunteer contact them at (405) 767-2600. Also, find more foster care volunteer opportunities here.