Over the years, I have come to understand that the social problems we see are not the problems we need to solve at all. They are merely symptoms of our separateness. As we address our separateness, we see these problems ameliorated in our world.
I know this deep in my heart. But there is one social symptom that repeatedly calls out for my attention. It grimly illustrates the darkness of separateness. We have built a fortress to protect this aspect of our separateness. We have created laws, cultural expectations and enigmatic systems to give us a convenient excuse to ignore it.
Every year there are more than half a million children in foster care. As children, they can hardly be responsible for the reasons this has happened to them. Yet, the experience impacts their lives dramatically. While they wait to return to their family or for an adoptive family to be found, they move from place to place – foster homes, group homes or institutions. The process takes years. It is precious lost time from their education and development. More than 25,000 children a year never find a permanent family. They “age out” of the system, and face the world without critical family support.
In this environment, it is nearly impossible to learn the lessons of unconditional love and community. Most of these children grow to be distrustful of others, unable to make loving connections with friends or family, and lacking in the tools they need to participate as productive citizens.
It is nothing short than a genocide of human potential. I have been able to witness it firsthand in my work with these kids, and in my own personal three-year journey to adopt a foster child that ended unsuccessfully. No one can tell you the stories because laws protect the privacy of the children. They are parented by a government system that is not designed to nurture, but to intentionally keep them insulated from community. It is a system with more focus on process than on compassion.
Even in such dire circumstances there is hope. I have seen social workers with amazing patience find a way to be there for the children, teaching them there is love in the world. I have met children that despite living in multiple homes, not hearing from their parents for years, and dealing with the emotional impact of physical and sexual abuse (trust me, you cannot even begin to imagine the horrors), can smile and tell you about their dream to be a social worker, wanting to help other kids like them.
I move forward knowing my only job is to heal separateness. I take every opportunity community brings me to act on that. But as long as this problem exists, it is symbolic of the darkness of separateness and the healing that must take place.
When the problem disappears, it will be because something wonderful has happened in our collective spiritual evolution. It will be because we have recognized that the future of these children is inextricable from ours. It will be because we have found the unconditional love to accept and assist people we once labeled as less than worthy. It will be because we are ready to put people before money.
It will be because we choose love instead of judgment.
And these are all choices we can start making right now.