Wednesday-night children

Margaret A. Bengs is managing editor/writer for the California attorney general’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center

A nurse led me into a room where a baby boy, about 3 months old, lay in a crib. The right side of his face was caved in. He was blind. His eyes rolled up in his head. I think he was a drug baby. The nurse said, “Could you rock this baby? His parents never come to see him. No one ever comes. He just lies in the crib all day.”

This was my first effort as a volunteer at a local hospital. I had reached a dark period of my life and was told I could not break the chains of my affliction on my own. I needed to turn to the sunlight of the spirit and do something for someone else, expecting nothing in return.

I began to rock him. His movements were jerky; his eyes kept rolling up. I started to sing to him, little ditties I remembered from my childhood. For some time, he was lethargic and didn’t respond. Then, I began singing a particular bright song, and suddenly, when I hit the high note, he smiled.

I sang the song over and over. His eyes were still rolling up in his head, but every time I came to that lilting high note, he smiled. Then, he reached his tiny fingers up, circled them around my thumb and held onto me.

And in his deformity, I saw my own—how my internal growth had been stunted, my life gnarled. That missing part of his face had been the missing part of my life. His blindness had been my blindness. Now, a gushing stream burst forth within—a completion of the spirit, a fulfillment, saturated the desiccated soil.

This was the beginning of many years of spending my Wednesday nights with abused and neglected children, currently at the Sacramento Children’s Home. Last year, there were 21,396 referrals for investigation of child abuse and neglect in Sacramento County. Without help, these children suffer in so many ways, and they can end up repeating the cycle of violence. Yet, I have never helped them so much as they have helped me.

I am but a Wednesday-night “mom,” but my Wednesday children have taught me what’s important in life.