Tuesday, November 16, 2021


A couple months ago, we welcomed a sweet preschool-aged boy into our home for a 5-day stretch. This child’s history was colored and fuzzy, and it proved difficult to make sense of all that he had faced in his short little life thus far. But it was clear from the way he spoke that safety was something that he and his mother talked about regularly. Heartbreakingly, he knew what it was like to be safe, because he had experienced what it felt like to be unsafe. No child this young should have to know the difference between these two. But he knew.

When he came to stay with us, we were strangers. The level of trust his mother possessed, as well as the desperation she must have been experiencing in order to hand her baby boy over to a complete stranger is difficult to fathom. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for her to tell her young son that he was going to stay with a family who she knew very little about, that the crisis they were facing had reached a level where trusting a stranger to take her son for a few days was her best option, until she got her feet back under her. She knew next to nothing about us beyond the fact that we were vetted and background checked by the nonprofit organization through whom we were matched. How do you explain this sort of situation to a preschooler? I wasn’t there for the conversation but I think she must have told her son that he was going to a “safe place.” At that point, it was an act of faith, a freefall step into the unknown, hoping-beyond-hope that this strange place she was sending him off to lived up to the way it had been advertised. The rocky road they had been on, left them longing, needing a safe place to receive care.

We met the duo at a fire station. Maybe the mother told the fireman about the child pass-off arrangement that was about to commence, or maybe she didn’t. All I know is that, when we pulled into the station, we saw a blur of a mini human in full firefighter costume, whizzing past us, and the fireman told us the boy was on his thirty-second lap around the fire truck. It appeared that we were in for a very busy week ahead.


But the young boy fit into our home that week like liquid poured into a cup. It felt like he belonged. He meshed into our crew like he’d always been a part, adapting so well to suddenly having three temporary older sibling figures in his life. His fire truck-lapping escapade appeared to be for show; he required very little beyond feeding, clothing and being occasionally doted on once he was in our home. He came with us to our kids’ soccer games. He was present at school drop offs and pick-ups. It didn’t feel like we did much beyond setting a 6th place at our table, and proceeding with life as normal.

The task that feels mundane and meaningless might just be the very thing that carries the greatest significance. 

This is what God is teaching me, lately. But I’ll get back to that. 

Five days passed, and when our time together came to a close, I packed the boy’s few belongings back into the reusable grocery bag they came to us in. As I buckled him into the carseat in my van, I told him it was time to go back home to his mom. I will never forget what he said to me next. I swear the world fell totally silent as he looked me in the eye and announced in the candid way only a child can, “This is a safe place.”

It was so matter of fact. There was no question in his voice. It was a clear statement.

THIS is a safe place. My house. My car. My yard. My family. My kids. My husband. Me. All of it.  By the grace of God we lived up to the words his mom offered up to him before we met. 

“You are going to a safe place.”

I’m sure at that point, she said those words as a wish, a hope, a prayer for herself, willing them to be true, trying to believe them into fruition. And here her precious little boy sat, confirming their accuracy now that he was on the other side. 

I could barely keep myself from weeping. I was equal parts elated that he experienced us as safe as I was devastated that he had to have experienced the opposite in order to know the difference. It’s unfathomable. 

I hope this experience forever changes me. As I think about our world right now, I’m acutely aware of the importance of, and desperate need for, safety, both in the physical sense as well as in the emotional. I keep thinking about what it means to be a safe place to land for those around us. It is not often the big one-time acts that provide a sense of safety. Rather, it is the repetitive showing up, being available, and proving oneself trustworthy in the little things that leaves the lasting impact. It’s the constant, subtle awareness of presence, the knowledge that someone is for you and behind you and saving space for you. This is a topic I hope to explore and ponder more in the future. This five day stretch of time reminded me yet again that even the mundane matters. What feels like nothing is a building block for something. The feeding and clothing and cleaning and driving. Just being present and available.

The task that feels mundane and meaningless might just be the very thing that carries the greatest significance. 

We fed and watered and attended to the basic needs of a human for a few days. And those actions resulted in a feeling of safety. If that’s not encouragement to keep trudging through the mundane day-to-day, I don’t know what is. Because Lord knows we all could use a few more safe places right about now!

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posted by kelsie