By Jonathan M. Baloo Voth
The holiday season is here. A time of thanksgiving, gifts, a time when people come together to show their love. This can also double as a time of awareness of others around the holidays. You know that feeling of a warm hearts, good food, and laughter filling the air? In some cases, it’s not the reality. For children that live in an unstable environment, time at home is not a time to be celebrated.
I can only speak from my experiences as a child growing up in the foster care system. The foster care system can be a blessing for some, but a curse for others. Foster care is a chance for both the parents as well for children that live in an unsupervised home who have lost their connection with family. In fact, out of the 7,500 children in Kansas this year, 625 will be removed from their homes for the holidays. I was one of those kids once. I lived with a mom who was struggling from alcoholism, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, as well as aggression. It was not a stable life. One day in November, I had to sleep outside. I felt so lost, and worried that there was no hope for my mom.
But that November a high schooler from the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization changed the holidays for me, and quite frankly, saved my life. The next morning after I had slept outside, I came to school sad, tired, and worried about where my Christmas would would be spent. Come to find out, my Big Brother was there with a present for me. “Chocolate!” I screamed. He even took the time to play soccer with me, even though he played basketball for Newton high school. To have someone there to say “You are wanted,” as well care about me, changed me.
Now I’m 21 and all of my best friends from elementary school are either drug addicts, have gone to jail, dropped out of school, or barely passed school. Life has knocked me down since I was five years old. Having to raise two little brothers as well as look after my mother was way too much for me, but I had help living up to the challenge. Looking back at the lunches, board games, and basketball lessons with my big brother makes me realize that without him, I wouldn’t have been able to step up for my family, or my little brother, who incidentally became best point guard to come through the Newton school system. (He continues to deny my influence on his success, though.)
As I look back, one of the most helpful things to me overcoming my abusive past was taking a class with Michele Hershberger called Youth Ministry. I’ve learned that children with an emotional, stressful life must have five successful people in their lives. My Big Brother was one of those people.
The holidays are beautiful when your family is around you, so as you go for your holiday break, enjoy those moments. But I encourage you to think about my story, while you’re eating with that beautiful family. Take in every little bit of it, don’t take anything for granted, but also recognize there are children who don’t have this family to come to. If you feel empowered by this article please know you would be a great Big Bother or Sister for a child like I was. Love the family who has given you a great life, but use this as a chance to give something back. One day someone might be thanking you for saving their future.