October 2009
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Oct 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Health, Housing, Life, Poetry and Inspiration, Written Word

The Secret of the Light was written at the request of Foster Care Alumni of America for contributions to a compilation of stories and reflections about life in foster care from surviving adults for teenagers  leaving care, and just following the writers’ diagnosis of and treatment for  breast cancer.

The Secret of the Light   (MY LIFE IN FOSTER CARE)

In a time before the Great Changing lived a young girl without a voice. The nest she was born in had a weak foundation and threatened to fall away beneath her feet at any moment. Her name was Hope, and she often hid in closets.

In times of darkness, the hole in the floor grew larger and Hope was forced to the edges to keep from falling out. One night a white stork came and plucked her up from where she was sleeping and dropped her down in another nest where the floor was in better condition and where there was Light.

After forever, she was again plucked up and returned to her own nest and Hope was happy and scared.

Before long, she had a sister, and one time in the darkness, they were both plucked up and dropped in different nests, where they waited until the hole in their own floor could be fixed.

Hope came to have five brothers and sisters who were also always plucked up and dropped down in different nests. One day the stork stopped taking them home and they were all lost to each other in this time. Hope had no voice so all her words were stuck inside. Still she hid in closets.

Some of Hope’s new nests had problems of their own and did not shine the Light. But some did, and that struck Faith. It was always familiar, always warm and ever all loving. It didn’t matter who  or where, it was the Light and always felt the same. Hope would not forget.

Time passed and Hope was almost fully-grown but she was still very young inside. She found herself standing before a man who sat up very high behind a large bench. He looked down at her over his glasses and told her that she would return to the nest that she was born in for the very last time. Hope was happy and scared.

So Hope returned to her first nest. She noticed that the floor still had not been fixed. Not only that, but she began to notice the cracks in her own wings too. She became more frightened and confused. Hope decided to fly away.

Soon Hope got lost and grew tired. She flew in circles because she did not have a Plan. The cracks in her wings were sore and were always uppermost in her heart, which was heavy with the words she could not let out.

In the distance one day, Hope saw a brilliant Light, more brilliant than she had ever seen. She was drawn to it. She remembered the Light in her past and the Love it held. She kept these memories close while she slowly made her way towards it.

In her travels, Hope saw glimmers of the Light that guided her. There was the Light of the classroom that strengthened her wings, the Light of the pen and paper where she could write the words that she could not speak, and the Light of kind strangers and friends who helped her to never forget.

But there were also places of darkness. Some of these were addictions, abuse, aimlessness, low self-esteem and poverty. There were more. They appeared as large cracks in the mud that Hope was ill equipped to avoid and that she would fall in from time to time.

There was great suffering and damage done in the cracks that Hope would have to some day address. Without her voice, Hope felt powerless. She searched for the Light but she could not see it. Still she hid in closets.

One day a doctor told Hope that she was very sick and that they would have to cut away one of her wings in order to save her. Hope was disturbed because she didn’t know how she would ever reach the Light with only one wing. Her remaining wing was carrying the weight of the cracks she had fallen in.

Hope was devastated. She did not want to be different than those others she judged herself against. She would be visibly marked for life. Before this, her damage could not be seen. She did not believe she could ever overcome the overwhelming darkness and because she could not believe, she got stuck.

Once in a long sleep, Hope returned to a time before the cracks, before the holes in the nests. She could smell the Innocence of long ago and of her life beginning. She heard music and saw books and paints and dancing and great Beauty in the world around her. She felt her goodness and her passion. Her strength was renewed and her belief restored. She had visited her True Self, and  she saw  Light.

Upon waking, Hope saw in the short distance a beautiful lotus flower, grown in the mud yet untouched by the mud. It was a brilliant purple marvel, and upon reaching it, she climbed up on one of the petals. As the petal began to break away from the flower, Hope began to find her voice.

The petal brought her to the shore of the mud while she sang loudly the song she remembered from her long sleep. Her voice was joyous and powerful: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the Light gets in.  That’s how the Light gets in”. (1) And Hope vowed to honor her broken wing.

Standing on the banks of the mud, Hope reached down and clasped the petal in her palm. The petal told her she was worthy. The petal told her she was loved. Hope saw that like the lotus her True Self was also untouched by the mud, and she promised to consult her True Self in all her affairs.

From that time forward, Hope used the message of the petal to guide her. She looked in her own life for the people, places and things that grew the Light and reflected the message of the petal. To everything else, she had to say good-bye. And she did, and her joy became great and her misery small.

Listening carefully to the dreams of her True Self, she developed a Plan. It was the beginning of the Great Changing and not perfect, but Hope found the support and guidance she sought. She began to repair the damage and in so doing found her own unique power.

Because she had lost her own family, she created a new one from special people she encountered who also needed a Sister or Daughter or Mother or Close Friend. She found great freedom in being able to choose and build a Family of her own. She never forgot where she came from and counted all the blessings from all the generations therein.

Finding her Home, creating her Family, and executing her Plan was a good deal of joyful and sometimes painful work. Hope became stronger day by day. She asked to be guided by the Light, and she was. She asked to be protected from the dark, and she was. Simply because she was alive, Hope still felt pain and still had fear. Sometimes she got lost. At these times, she would hold the lotus petal in her palm and listen for the Message: “You are worthy. You are loved”.

She would marvel at the mystery that was Life and count her many and wonderful blessings. In this spirit, she joined the good fight for Great Changing and used her experience to point out the cracks and holes that others might be saved. She carried to those others the message of the petal: “You are worthy. You are loved”. And in this way Hope never forgot.

1 Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

by c.smith

First published in:

FLUX:  Life after Foster Care– the new book from Foster Care Alumni of America

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  1. Love your use of metaphors! Is this autobiographical?

  2. yes.

  3. Well you have my deepest empathy. Funny, I could tell you stories of my much maligned childhood at the hands of some very messed up biological parents whom acted as though we had somehow made their lives miserable. Between the bouts of drunken madness, domestic violence, and all round aggression I can say one thing for certain, childhood for more than we like to admit is the most dangerous, emotionally damaging time in our lives. But there is some sort of sacred veil covering this very real truth. 80% of all murdered children are done in by their parents! To me that says a lot!!!

  4. Cheryl Smith, I have read your communication with a John Dunn which sent me to check-out Peacock. I was truly impressed with the Website & content. What I have gathered is that you’re a product of an American Foster Care “Child Protective Services”
    Now I read Gil’s troubled life by the means of troubled parents “Resentful” parents.

    I am a Canadian who has witnesses what the government can do to a child in the name of ” the best Interest of Child” Listen to me please … our government is totally destroying the people its wishes to; the handi-capped, disabled, seniors and the ones not high on the income list!

    I am so afraid for the child, the seniors and myself as there is no one to turn to.

  5. Pleased to meet your acquaintance Robert. I am Canadian. This org works closely with National Youth in Care here; that is how I came to it.

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