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Exposing our kids to the world

June 1, 2011

This spring I have been overwhelmed with my work with A Face to Reframe, specifically a project in Denver with youth living on the streets who are vulnerable to domestic human trafficking. As expected, the participants have gotten into my soul.

On an emotional level, I liked them. I want better for them. More. In my head, I’ve rearranged my kids’ rooms to accomodate my new adoptees.

On a systemic level, I feel the gross inadequacies of my work and all service providers seeking to help this population. I imagine a family system approach to our deepest societal wounds. A family to heal such brokenness. A family to re-teach all that was learned wrongly and to fill in holes of love, personal responsibility, and life skills. And I wonder if we are such a family? Are my kids?

I took my oldest to the final exhibit once I knew the direction and theme of the participants’ photo essay’s message. It seemed “safe” enough for an 11 year old. I wanted him to be exposed to what I do and to engage a group of young people through their words and photographs. Leading up to that night, as I prepared the displays all over our office floor, he quizzed me in ceaseless fashion: where does he live? why is he homeless? what is her story?

The partnering organization chose the venue for the exhibit and I knew the greatest “risk” with my son was what he might encounter there. The cafe is not conservative- church- kid- friendly, if you know what I mean. We set up amidst a young psychic training, had early birds in the corner smoking hookahs, and welcomed many guests of various sexual orientations. All the while, I was supremely aware of the 11 year old boy’s radar, bracing myself for the conversation, hoping he had reached a maturity to wait.

And I have to ask, dear readers, what do we do? As parents??? Where is the manual on how to have tricky conversations without forming deep prejudices, without creating judgement and scorn so easily formed in young minds? I want my son to love people and see them as created in God’s image, with worth and value. I don’t want him to first- or worse, only- see them for their lifestyle. If I learned anything through this photography project, it is that we cannot write a person’s story for them, including the one we read and the one that has already occurred. But then, there are our beliefs. How does it all work together? For us, and for our children?

Thankfully, in light of still processing these thoughts, I brought my son and not my daughter. His observations led to a few brief comments, not questions, and were overwhelmingly distracted by the plethora of left over cupcakes at arms reach on the way home. My 8 year old daughter would still be asking questions, 6 days later. Needless to say, I am not going to be able to escape this struggle and would welcome any thoughts you might have!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2011 3:48 pm

    lol, love Ella. Keep exposing them.

    Here is a great lesson if you have time to watch it. The dangers of a single story:

    I am so thankful my parents introduced me to “the many stories” while growing up. I believe it gave me such a head start in life and relationships.

  2. Beth Bruno permalink
    June 1, 2011 11:22 pm

    Kay, the TED talk is absolutely fabulous!!! Thank you for sharing it!

  3. Cathy permalink
    June 2, 2011 2:18 am

    Beth, first of all, I have to say you and Chris are two of my heroes! You guys do amazing things and challenge convention–I love it!
    Secondly, I have found kids to be amazingly accepting. My kids, much younger than your 11-yr-old, could clearly see the wrong biblically (obviously simplified) of certain lifestyles and turn right around and love unconditionally in a way that I have rarely seen adults able to do. I saw this most evidently when we attended a commitment ceremony of two gay men. I wrestled for weeks about taking the kids, but in the end it was a good thing.
    Keep up the awesome work both in your photography and in parenting!

    • Beth Bruno permalink
      June 2, 2011 8:13 pm

      Thanks Cathy! That’s encouraging to hear.

  4. Kristin Reid permalink
    June 2, 2011 3:25 pm

    Here’s something from the Q website I just noticed…. haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m sure it will spur more thoughts.

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