As a writer, I know the challenge of the blank page.
The blank page stands witness to all this is not and all that could be. It invites the writer to express his innermost thoughts and to form them into an offering worthy to present to the world.
For this very reason, the blank page intimidates, as well. For there it sits–an invitation, yes–but quite possibly an invitation to failure. What if the words don’t come out right? What if they fall on deaf ears? What if nobody cares?
These are the kind of thoughts I normally center upon when, as a writer, I consider the blank page.
Recently, though, I came across a blank page that spoke something entirely different to me. Something just as inviting and just as intimidating, but altogether different.
But first, the background.
AN UNFORESEEN ADVENTURE
As I believe I mentioned to you once before, my wife and I have recently become foster parents. Fostering is not an adventure I ever saw coming into my life in any way, shape, or form. We sort of just stumbled onto it, really. But after a little research and prayer, we sensed the Lord’s pleasure and felt like we should give it a try.
Now we are two months into an actual placement, and what a two months it has been! Already our experience has run the gauntlet from deeply frustrating to deeply spiritual; from richly rewarding to intensely heartbreaking. But it has been good, all considered. Very good.
Anyway, when we first received the call to meet our little one, we had to visit him at the hospital for a while before we could bring him home. This brings me to my story, and to a moment I will probably never forget.
When we walked into the unit, we were taken by surprise to see the nurses had him at the front desk, enjoying some play time. Immediately, he turned his head our way and greeted us with that oh-so-sweet smile we’ve been privileged to see every day since. I honestly didn’t know how to feel. We spent a moment saying hello and being introduced to the staff on duty. We were eager to go to his room and begin our visit, but the nurse at the desk instructed us to “sign in” before heading back.
A plain black binder sat atop the counter–the visitor log for children in the unit, she told us. All visitors must sign in and out with each visit. Date and time.
So we opened the book and began to leaf through the names. The pages were filled. Some more than others, of course, but all contained names… of parents, grandparents, and who knows who else. Let’s just say that given the unique medical conditions facing these children, they had all been there long enough to give those who cared about them the opportunity to log substantial visitation time. That much was clear. Until, that is, we came to the page for our little guy.
Which, as you may have guessed, was blank.
It hurt to see that. Probably what hurt the most was that, to my knowledge, he had been there longer than any of them. Months, we’re talking. And yet, his page was blank.
But oh, how it spoke to me.
It was a different kind of blank page than I was used to considering, no doubt. For starters, it was not about me. It was not for me, either, and up to that point it had had nothing to do with me. But it called to me, nonetheless. Invited me in. And I found, quite quickly, that it contained all the challenge and all the hope and all the intimidation of any blank page I had ever considered before.
What would I write upon it? What could I? Others had failed to even pick up the pen. Here was a life abandoned. A little one in need of help. Would we walk into his life, not knowing how long we might be allowed to remain, and begin to write the words of love, of hope, of a future?
Yes. Undoubtedly, yes. Fearfully and falteringly…
THE BIGGER STORY
This little story is bigger than me and you. And it’s bigger than the precious little one my wife and I have been blessed to care for during this as-of-yet undetermined season of life. For there are so many children in the world whose pages are currently blank. The people who were supposed to love them have failed to pick up the pen, or having once picked it up have now decided to put it down. Whatever the issue, their pages are blank and unfinished and waiting.
I don’t mean to say that every person in the world should be a foster parent. In fact, I’m sure everyone should not. But I do mean to stir you, make no mistake about it. For I know that I’m writing to men and women who, for the most part, have an interest in following Jesus Christ. And while I realize He will lead us in sometimes very different directions, all according to the Purpose, I also want you to recognize that there is a world of hurt out there, and much of it has fallen on the children.
What better way than foster care to follow the one who told his own, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18)?
Would you take this message to heart? Would you stop for a minute and listen to the echo of the Voice which spoke to me from that blank page two months ago?
Sure, there is need aplenty. You can’t do it all, and neither should you try. Nor I. But as Helen Keller once said, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.”
Your something, for all I know, could have to do with children in need of foster care. Short of doing the deed yourself, there are so many ways to be involved or simply to support those who do. The old maxim is true that it takes a village to raise a child, so I encourage you to look at how you might be get in on this. There are resources and information out there, and there are people like me who will talk with you about it.
I don’t know what your story may look like. I’m only sharing with you a little of my own. And for what it’s worth, I am honored you would listen. Please share this article with anyone you think may benefit from it. Above all, though, think of the children. There are so many whose pages remain blank, who at this very moment are playing in a bedroom, or lying in a hospital bed, or sitting in a classroom, desperately waiting for someone to love them.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Buechner