There is a little girl who landed on our doorstep about a month ago named Krystal. Krystal is in 3rd grade by age, but cannot read or write. Krystal is deaf but does not know American Sign Language. Krystal cannot eat but is fed via a gastro-intestinal (GI) tube twice a day at school by her mother, who is having a hard time getting on Medicaid in Texas. Krystal is always happy.
Krystal’s hair is parted beautifully every day in a centered, zig-zag pattern and every day she wears a clean bib with some paper towels folded in the pocket to catch her drool as she smiles at us, nods, and gurgles throughout the day.
Every time I see Krystal, I say “Hi!” with bright eyes and a full smile, and she nods to me and says hi in her own way and gives me a hug. The children love her and have brought her into the school in the most amazing ways; gently tossing a ball to her in PE, looking after her at recess, and asking sweet questions about her when she cannot hear them (they don’t understand deafness). They ask: “Why does that little girl not speak? Can she hear us? No hearing?!?” They are mostly unaware of life’s greatest mysteries.
The other day I was walking with Krystal out to the Special Education room, which is where she spends most of her days. Her paperwork that came from California is out of date and it looks like she hasn’t been in school for about three years. Her mom was living in Orange County and said it was hard for her. Our district won’t use the old paperwork as they claim it is too out of date. This is a way they can keep her at our campus despite our lack of a Life Skills classroom. They say they have to follow policy and that until Mom gets doctor’s orders for Krystal, there is nothing they can do to help her. So we help her, every day assigning someone to walk around with her, hold her hand, and take her to meet her mother.
I was just watching “Fried Green Tomatoes” tonight. It is an early spring night and it is very cool out. When I was walking with Krystal the other day I thought about the part of the movie during which Ninny mentions Ruth’s belief in there being a special God for children. When I am with Krystal and she is smiling at me and gurgle-laughing, or when I am drawing with Jade and trying to get her to talk to me about why she is so violent, when Zoe is screaming at me over and over and over again, when Tara is able to calm down and come out of her hiding space and walk off her upset feelings, I think about that God. There are few mercies for little children who are in the dire straits of poverty during late-stage capitalism, parents who are under-employed, houses that aren’t sanitary or safe, in a school system that is only designed for children who would make it even if the system just went away.
Right now the stool holding up society isn’t steady and it’s because we are missing a huge part of its structure: the children. I wish it was as simple as praying to that God and asking her/him to step in and help us. For now, it seems that no one will help, and no one knows how, anyway. For now, we will walk around with our Krystals and try to soothe our Jades and try to figure out our Taras so we can make it through the school days. It seems so strange for a country to, over and over again, ignore and leave behind its children. Just as in the Pied Piper of Hamlin, we are trading so much for our children. What happens when the Piper comes to call in his debts?