Home For The Holidays

Home means many things to many people. For a soldier, it’s typically where their family resides rather than where they’re stationed. For a student, it’s the place they return to on summer breaks and between semesters. For a child, it’s often where the people who have birthed them live. But what about a foster child? What if the child has lived in a dozen homes in a short period of time? For the North Georgia Angel House, it’s 2260 Sam Nelson Road. I am reminded of this each day when I open the mail and spend my morning texting dozens of children who forgot to change their address when they registered to vote or failed to pay a speeding ticket. But besides opening the mail, there are other ways.

As we prepare for the Holiday Season, dozens of our girls will travel from near and far to reconnect and spend time together at the place they call home. Many will bring the next generation of children back to a place where they can recite where they first learned to cook a meal or had a person who loves them say “good job.” Girls will return to the rooms that are now called home to new foster sisters and tell stories of what it was like when they lived here.

As we shop, wrap, and tag for 60 youth that we’ve never met, we reflect on the days when their moms were our teens. We laugh at the crazy things they did and what mistakes were avoided as a result of having a place that they call home. As we ponder what their children will be like, we find ourselves tasked with preparing for toddlers and infants as opposed to teens and young adults. Instead of Vans and mascara we are wrapping Elmo’s and play dough.

It is during this time that we are able to look back over the last decade and take pride in the growth we’ve seen in our girls. Many are now moms who are working and getting the hang of juggling children and employment. Some are deployed and only corresponding when idle time reminds them of the skills they learned prior to shipping out. Others are still attending college or trade school to find a path that will provide for them as life goes on. But for many of us, we have spent this entire decade watching our girls grow wings and come back to the place where they have roots.

Our Home for the Holiday’s is coming up in the next couple of weeks. It will be a time to feed a flock and meet the faces of those who are eager to learn about the place our girls call home. We are so fortunate to have a huge network surrounding us from Lake Arrowhead to Soleil and hundreds of friends and families in the community who have all played a vital role in maintaining what we call home. If you’d like to test this theory, ask yourself “where’s my home?” My guess is, it’s a place that you return to because the memories you have hold a special place in your heart.

From our home to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. We will be celebrating with many of our girls and now with their children as well. As we continue to love and support them, we want you to know that your role in making their house a home is found at 2260 Sam Nelson Road. The place with the giant mail box and no forwarding address for so many. Why? Because it’s home.

Visit us often at www.angelhousega.com to learn how many more of our girls failed to change their forwarding address. We might need a bigger box soon!

The Garage Band Angels

There is a saying that “music is food for the soul.” Fortunately, the AMPED Kids Foundation from Gainsville, GA. has found the desire to feed us! This week, AMPED began working with many of our girls at what looks like a musical buffet at our home. When we were contacted to see which of our girls would like voice or musical lessons, we thought we might meet one or two. We had no idea that our next steps would be starting a Garage Band!

We now have a drummer, three guitarists, four vocalists, two piano players, and one keyboard girl. Our summer plans include rolling up the garage doors and let the girls work together to form a band. If you’re looking to buy a home in the area, be forewarned! Lol!

By now, some of you may wondering “Is that a good idea?” And we say, “Heck yes!” Why? Because children that are working together for a common goal learn skills that are virtually impossible to teach elsewhere. Music is said to have seven important ingredients to feeding the soul.

The first is to improve brainpower. Using the brain means keeping it busy. A busy brain is less likely to dwell on the negatives and look for the positives. The second, it develops social skills. Many of our girls are here to learn social skills to help build healthy relationships along the way in life.

The third, is confidence. I don’t know about you, but I have learned that children who have confidence hold their head a little bit higher. They are a little bit more likely to find something positive in an otherwise dark day. The fourth is, it inspires creativity. There is no doubt that we will soon have a CD out. Stay tuned!

The fifth is patience. This one might take a minute. I anticipate that our band name might originate out of this simple task. Just sayin’… The sixth is expression. We encourage our girls to find positive ways to express themselves. What better way than to belt out a melody with a band of your closest friends. Move over Alanis Morissett!

And finally, it teaches discipline. We spend a great deal of our day here teaching the value of self-discipline. This is the single most important motivator to get up, get dressed, get to school, make good grades, set a goal, stick to it, and then do it again. Over time, those who learn the value of self-discipline find they accomplish more in this thing called life that we are all here to contribute to.

So the next time you hear of a “Garage Band,” I hope you will think of us. Some will sing and some will dance, but together we will thrive. Visit our website often to see what we’re up to. www.angelhousega.com

We made the team!

Six months ago two sisters came to live with us. The two could not be more opposite. One tiny in stature and bright brown eyes that watched every move of others without ever making a sound. When asked routine questions, she would smile quietly and politely nod. Her sister on the other hand, came in like a torpedo. Her bright blue eyes and laughter can be heard around the home on any given day. If a conversation is happening within earshot, she contributes.

One month ago, two more sisters came to live with us. One tall with striking blue eyes and an easy going personality. Her young sister smaller and lovingly described as a firecracker. Again, opposite personalities but like our other sisters, just thankful to be living together. Both sets of sisters have left brothers behind that are living in the foster care system. Visits happen in offices rather than homes and the time spent together is never long enough.

Our young sisters struck up a friendship that led to them to soccer try outs tonight. For four hours, two girls, both with a sister waiting on the sidelines took the field and gave it their all. As the two older sisters huddled on the sidelines offering sibling support and waiting to hear their young sisters name called, the sound of joy filled the air!

As we celebrate this accomplishment tonight, we learned many things. The sister that we once thought didn’t have much to say, has been taking voice lessons and has the voice of Mariah Carey! Our sister with the rock star personality has started playing guitar. Our two young sisters have turned into athletes. What could you become if you allowed yourself to let go of your fears?

We are so fortunate to get to witness life changing events happen every single day for our girls. To see children being children and a spark in their eyes to tackle something that is new and exciting is bold! Children are like plants. If they are given roots, they can sprout their wings.

So tonight we celebrate our two new soccer girls that are taking on the town one game at a time! Stay tuned to hear how we are making a difference. Visit us often at www.angelhousega.com to learn how you can get involved!

The Peace Train

Have you ever noticed that when you really have somewhere to be, something bigger needs your attention? If you’ve not experienced it…we’re hiring! As I turned out the lights and put the key in the door last night, one of our girls came down to help me load up the car and casually mentioned “I’m signing out of care this week to go and live with my birth mom?” I glanced at my watch, texted my boss, took a deep breath and said “let’ talk.”

Listening to the logic, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when she left? The birth mom had been absent for 17 years and if that was Plan B, it was worth talking through. As we sorted through the issues, several things were obvious. Attending school was not very exciting. The years of ditching class to go read a book in the media center or lingering a bit too long at the bus lanes had resulted in a sizable number of unexcused absences and failing grades. Catching up seemed like an insurmountable task that would have a quicker ending with a GED.

Failed apartment inspections were resulting in consequences that for a teen seemed unrealistic. The loss of a phone. Looking back on the two years ago when we first met, I wasn’t sure we would make it past the first week. Despite staffing after staffing to preserve her placement, the reality was, consequences were a deal breaker. It took over a year to find a balance of what behavior warranted throwing down the gauntlet as opposed to entering into peace talks. But eventually, a compromise was reached that seemed to be working.

But the age of 18 feels different. For a child in the foster care system, 18 means “I can make my own decisions.” And while that might be true, making decisions means living with the consequences. A co-worker entered the room and heard the conversation before putting down her purse to contribute. A third co-worker passed through before hopping on the “Peace Train” to see how we could assist.

Listening to the struggles of 17 years of drifting from home to home can be tough to hear. Changing homes often, failed adoptions, multiple school disruptions, and relationships that have not stood the test of time can leave one feeling defeated. As we talked through what life would look like sleeping on a stranger’s sofa, having no education, leaving the support system that has invested so many hours in making life better, and being totally dependent on someone who could simply say “get out” did not make sense. Through tear stained cheeks and eventually laughter, we decided to continue on the journey together.

Riding the “Peace Train” with a child who is in crisis can be tough. It means hugging the rails when the tracks split to go in a different direction. It’s sitting in coach while working together to save to get into First Class. It means watching scenery pass by the windows that is sometimes beautiful and sometimes dismal. But the take away is this. Trains are meant to carry us to our next destination. They make many stops along the way and there are many models. Whether you’re riding China’s new Fuxing train that travels at lightening speed, or the Glacier Express across that crawls across the Swiss Alps the train will take you places. The object is the game is to let it take you to a better destination than the one you’ve left.

As we hugged and turned out the lights to go home, I couldn’t help but feel like today the train stop was productive. If you are in a position where you can be a conductor, load your boxcars with passengers who board the Peace Train. Sometimes, talking someone through a decision that might ultimately derail the rest of their life is worth riding the Glacier Express.

Visit us often at www.angelhousega.com to see how to get involved.

Bite your tongue…

On my way in to work today, my co-worker called and re-routed me to stop by the school. ” What happened?” I asked

“We have a dress code issue.”

“Ah, was it just a dress code issue?”

“No, it was how she responded that got her into trouble.”

“Yep, that makes sense.”

As I drove onto the school campus colorful fall leaves fell from the trees. Signs spaced every four feet apart set the pace for a day of encouragement. You can do this! Have an amazing day! You’re successful! I laughed and found the nearest parking spot.

As the child entered the car, I opened the conversation with the signs of encouragement I found along the driveway. “Why do you think the school wants to be so encouraging?” I ask.

“Who knows! I’ve worn this shirt five times and never been dress coded. I don’t know why it became a problem today” responded the child.

So I asked, “If I were to speed every single day to work and then get a ticket one day when I got caught, whose fault would it be?”

“I see what you’re saying. But it just made me so angry I said some things I shouldn’t have” she responded.

“Ok, so what does tomorrow look like?”

“I wear a different shirt?”

” Yes.” I asked. “That’s one part. But what else?”

“Ummmm, I don’t know?”

Hmmm, here’s my perspective…

Every day, people fail. We are after all human beings and we are not perfect beings. However, when we do fail, it’s our responsibility to make things right. And so I asked “What do you think would have happened if you would have taken responsibility today and said I’m sorry. I have worn this shirt before and I did not realize it was not appropriate?”

Her smile and quiet laughter told me she heard me.

As we drove home today, we talked about how we treat other people. Are we kind? Do we say things that we shouldn’t when we are angry? At the beginning and end of each day, do we ask for guidance on where we are going and forgiveness for where we’ve been? As we drove and talked through “how we say versus what we say” her insight was comforting.

“Mrs. Susan, I have already made a mistake today. I just want to do better tomorrow.”

With a nod of approval, I shared a story that has been with me during my life.

When I was in Basic Training, my Company Commander tossed my locker. The infraction was small. I had folded my underwear “right over left” instead of “left over right.” I felt it was a bit heavy handed to toss my locker and hurl my mattress out the window, but hey…I see it often now, so I’m not judging! But when I graduated my Commander said to me “do you know why I tossed your locker when you didn’t follow my instructions?” “Not really.” I responded. “I did it to teach you this. If we were on a sinking ship and I said go left and you instead go right, you might not get out alive. Sometimes, rules are in place to help you succeed.”

As the underwear violation so many years ago was discussed in today’s dress code world scenario, my take away is this. Challenging every human being for every simple task is not necessary. Sometimes, when we are asked to follow rules, our job is to follow them. If we are going to contest them, do so respectfully. The only way that the issue is heard and ultimately changed is if you are successful at communicating your side of the issue. Adults often need this lesson as often as children. Rules are rules . We don’t always like them, we might not agree on them. But, how we disagree says more about us than any other issue. Learn how to communicate. It’s okay to disagree. It doesn’t have to turn into a screaming tantrum, door slamming kind of day. This behavior only jeopardizes the point you are trying to make.

And if you are currently serving in the military and you are asked to fold your underwear left over right, make it happen! Lol! I challenge you to learn to be the keeper of your own tongue. No one else has that power but you. Visit us often at www.angelhousega.com to learn more about us and how we make a difference.

The Miranda Lambert Kitchen…

Yesterday under a bright sunny sky a new day began. It wasn’t a time change or the beginning a season, it was the opening of the newly remodeled home. For weeks, our community has poured every ounce of energy they could muster to make us amazing. Our yard has been graded, a retaining wall built, gutters replaced, siding installed, concrete poured, mulch and plants installed, ceilings scraped and painted, and many other tasks such as changing out outlets and lights. No detail was forgotten as the old home made way for a state of the art area where the girls could have a meal. As we cut the ribbon with those who gave so much, we walked in together to nothing short of a miracle.

Our old kitchen with so many bad habits such as leaking water, dropping cabinet doors, and collecting grease was gone. Instead, white shaker cabinets with sparkling granite invited every single guest to come in and admire her. We had no idea when HomeAid heard our distress call that we would meet the friends of a lifetime from Taylor Morrison Construction.

Througout the summer and into the winter seemed like a Miranda Lambert melody. “Plans were drawn and concrete poured nail by nail and board by board” the house turned into a home. We have been saturated by contractors who not only overhauled our home, but did so with love. These men and women all standing together today to admire the work was a visual we won’t forget.

As the dinner hour began and kids sat for the first time in their new home, it was apparent that the love poured into the home was worth the investment. The first home cooked meal was served while girls sat at the counter and worked on their meal plans together. Our newest arrival to join our family was quickly brought up to speed on “you would not believe what this kitchen used to look like!”

As our girls read the names on the plaque that pays homage to those who serve, stories were told of how many people came to make the home so beautiful. Much like a fish tale, the numbers are embellished each time I hear them. But, the reality is this. Twenty-Two companies have relentlessly poured thousands of hours and resources into our house to make it our home. As the meal clean up began, a sense of pride was found in the ones making sure that their home remained pristine. We will forever be grateful for the home and those who will always be considered a part of our family. To the hundreds of hands that have touched us, we hope you know that we appreciate you.

If you’re in the area, come and see us! Our friends might be out doing something amazing, but proudly displayed in our home is a plaque that serves a reminder our girls are loved. Visit our website often to see how our community helps us make a difference. www.angelhousega.com. A special thanks to our Builder Captain Ronnie Cline of Taylor Morrison Construction. Cheers! To the man who is never rattled and always has a solution, we appreciate you!

Veterans Day

Many years ago, recruitment for the military looked very different than it does today. Young men left home early via the draft to serve their country often to return home and find the place they left looked very different. To those who never left to serve, they would likely argue that the home had not changed, but the soldier had. Those who knew a soldier pre-deployment wondered what happened to change the perspective so much on those who served.

Imagine fighting in hand to hand combat or walking through a jungle having no idea if and when you would come home alive. Leaving your family, your home, pets, and community to fly across the world to make our nation safer for those who remained behind was something that many felt was a privilege. But then imagine coming home and having to relive the memories that forever play in the mind of our soldiers who often returned to nothing familiar.

Often civilians fail to understand the depths of depression and isolation that many of our vets quietly carry inside. Why? Because many vets believe their needs are not as important as our freedom. These are the men and women you will find today first in line to help another out. Despite the huge sacrifice that so many have made to make our nation safer and stronger, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that 11% of the homeless population is a veteran.

Today as our nation comes together to observe Veterans Day, I ask you to have a conversation with your family members tonight. Let us remind our youth that the freedom so often taken for granted has come at a great expense to many. As I write this blog today, men and women are deployed all over the world making a huge sacrifice for those us here in America. Our youth today are often unaware of the silent heroes that suffer physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally every single day.

When you see a veteran and extend your hand to say “Thank You” pause for a moment. You will find that you are holding the hand of a person that gives more than they receive. They are the keeper of our burdens and often not acknowledged nearly enough. Tomorrow on November 12, the Missing in America Project will be inurning the cremated remains of seven World War II veterans who served in the US Army and US Navy with full military honors at Georiga National Cemetary. The procession will depart from Roswell Funeral home at 1 pm following a brief ceremony and travel westbound on GA-92 through the city of Woodstock to arrive at the Georgia National Cemetary at approximately 1:40 pm. These remains have made the ultimate sacrifice and having our community there to pay our respects is our pleasure.

If you are a veteran, today, tomorrow and every day we say “Thank You.” You are the game changers that allow us to sleep under the greatest flag on earth, the United States. To learn more about how we support our troops, please visit our website at www.angelhousega.com. We partner with the Cherokee Veterans Community to support our veterans. We have enlisted many of our girls over the years into all branches of the services. Thank you for allowing us to help serve them so they can now serve us.

Remembering Gwendolyn

Tomorrow night as we all gather at Canton First Methodist Church it will be bitter sweet. For many of us, it’s the first time we have been at the church since we said good-bye to our beloved Gwendolyn. It’s hard to not think of Gwen when Canton First Methodist is mentioned. This is the church that opened its doors to allow us to have a celebration of her life during this very month just three short years ago. Gwen was so special that I thought tonight would be a good time to celebrate her.

Three years ago many of us were on the verge of worry and relief as we prepared for the last days of Gwendolyn’s life. Gwen came to live with us as a teen and had been separated from her sister in another group home due to her verbal aggression toward others. I recall the day I met Gwen in my office. Her short unkempt hair framed her round face and bright eyes. Her caseworker stood close by to make the introduction poised as if she might have to tackle her. I rose from my chair and cheerily asked “What’s your name?” Gwen looked me up and down and turned to her case manager. ” Who the hell is that?!” The conversation continued for a few minutes and my takeaway was “this won’t be easy.”

Several years later Gwen and I had become a family. Her outspoken demeanor was nothing short of spectacular. If Gwen had a question, she would ask. Her unfiltered vocabulary could trouble shoot any issue in the home and arrive with a verdict in minutes. Her wit and love of animals are two of my favorite memories of Gwen.

On a routine trip to the doctor, Gwen’s labs came back elevated. Several weeks later a diagnosis of leukemia revealed that the end was near. We enrolled Gwen in a clinical trial and staff members moved to the hospital to sit with Gwen for weeks. Her Angel House siblings took care packages, movies, and all sorts of contraband to go and pile in her bed at the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta where her care will never be forgotten. Those she once thought of as employees, became known to her as family. Although she couldn’t leave the hospital grounds, staff would take her in the garden in a wheel chair and let her feel the sun on her face and the grass under her feet.

Despite the interventions, Gwen knew she was dying. We talked at length several times about death. Gwen was not afraid to die and was candid in saying so. She had a deep faith and a desire to feel better. We talked about her reuniting with her grandmother who had cared for her as a baby. Gwen wondered if her grandmother would be waiting when she passed, or if she would have to look for her. I couldn’t help but cry having such a hard conversation with Gwen. I could not help but wonder why her? Why take a child who had grown up in the foster care system and never had the opportunity to become a nurse as she had planned. Why take someone who was so full of goodness and had not ever brought harm to another in her life. I tried hard to hold back the tears, but I just couldn’t. Hearing the strain in my voice she asked “Miss Susan, are you crying? I don’t know why you’re crying. You gonna die too someday ya know!” And just like that, I knew she would be okay.

When the doctor said Gwen would pass away within the month, one of our staff took Gwen into her home and stayed with her to give her a family during her final days. She had been in the foster care system her entire life and could not recall a time when she had a normal family life. Those final weeks Gwen had a family. She had a mom, a dad, and two sisters who never left her side.

A week before Gwen died, she asked to ride to Tennessee with her Angel House family to a local charity who specialized in grief counseling. A school bus had crashed and a young girl lost her life. The story I was told about that day never left me. As Gwen sat wrapped in a blanket in her wheelchair she saw a man weeping. Her usual candid request insisted she be taken to him. Despite adults telling Gwen the grieving man was unknown to her, she felt compelled to meet him. Reluctant to comply, her now foster mom rolled her chair to the man and allowed Gwen to talk with him. As she reached out to touch the man Gwen said “don’t cry. I’m going to die soon and I will find your daughter. I’ll tell her you’re okay.” Unsure of how to respond, the man questioned Gwen more about her intentions. Gwen’s response to the man was this. “I have leukemia and I am going to die. I’m am okay and you are going to be okay as well. Don’t worry. I’ll find your daughter when I get there.”

On the morning of Thanksgiving, Gwen died. She passed peacefully in a home, in a bed, surrounded by people she loved. You may recall that yesterday I mentioned we all meet another person for a very specific reason. Any person who met Gwen became a better person. Her outlook on life, her love for others, and the kindness in her was like no other. The girl that came to us when her placement disrupted and staff feared she would become aggressive ended three years later when she died in a staff members home.

Tomorrow, as we all return to the Canton Methodist Church to raise funds for the North Georgia Angel House, it will be our first time back since Gwen went home to be with her grandma. Our occasion will be celebratory as Miss Georgia performs to raise awareness to the foster care system. As we take our seats tomorrow night, Gwen will be with us. I ask those of you who knew Gwen to not go with a heavy heart. Go with the joyful spirit she will always be remembered for. RIP Gwendolyn Stevenson. We love you and I pray you will be one of the “Five People I meet in Heaven.”

Visit us at www.angelhousega.com to learn how to get involved in the foster care system. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Not your ordinary get rich quick scheme…

Over the years, I have come to realize that family is not always the one who gives birth to us. Today I was reminded of this when two of our girls came home for a visit. As we sat in the floor and talked about the old days, we reminisced about the day that the girls were strangers. Although the girls lived in the home years apart, they didn’t realize they were sisters until recently.

You see, one of our girls is a new mom. Her son was born with a heart defect that has left him in the NICU since birth. For two months, we’ve watched our child who arrived in a patrol car many years ago sit through four heart surgeries, two medically induced comas, and now a medical paralysis to allow her newborn to heal. Her Angel House sister reached out to lend support, shelter, respite, and care to ease her burden.

As the two young mothers sat on opposite sides of the lobby, we laughed about the days when we all met. Through temper tantrums, broken windows, runaway episodes, school suspensions, court hearings, and countless other encounters, we have stuck it out. We have seen both girls at the worst, and both at their best.

As the girls told stories of “back in the day” the realization was made that this is their home. It is where children count the days until emancipation and often run rather than walk to what they believe is freedom. It is a world where case managers and staff members are no longer meddling in every decision they make. The meal planning, designated laundry day, mandatory school attendance, and negative consequences require staying home on Saturday are replaced with freedom. The post it notes left on their doors and walls from staff reminding them “you are loved” and “today will be better” no longer waits for them. The craziness of getting ready for school and fighting over a spot in the bathroom with the best lighting is no longer required.

There is something to be said about having a place to call home. It is an anchor for a boat that otherwise would just drift. It’s a place where both good and bad memories are made and at the end of it, you know that within those four walls people love you and will move mountains to help you reach your destination. We love being that home.

As our girls walked the halls of their home I had the greatest sense of pride in them. Two strangers whom many gave up on years ago kept fighting. They are now mothers themselves and have come to the realization that the home who expected so much of them had a purpose. My friends, nothing in life happens by chance. Every person that we touch in life is placed there for us to learn from. They learned a lot from us as children, but today I have learned so much from each of them.

As you continue on your journey in life, take time to look back at where you’ve been. Rather than view your past as a burden, consider it as a time in life that was meant to prepare you for something you would face in your future. Remind yourself that people are placed in our life for a specific reason. Some of us have tougher skin than others. We aren’t the women you’ll find drying our eyes when girls have horrible things to say out of anger. But we are the women you will see who believe every child that enters our home is now a part of our family.

There’s a great book that I would encourage every person to read. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom is a game changer. The short story is that every interaction you have in life impacts another. If I have learned anything in 30 years of serving the foster care system it is this. Every single experience has taught me something valuable. When you find the value in others you will become the richest person alive. Make a good investment. I can promise you, the long term dividends you invest in another can make you a millionaire many times over.

Visit our website often to learn more about our investment in other opportunities. www.angelhousega.com

A Cat’s Meow…

Today I am reminded that the seeds we plant do grow. One of our girls has been with us four different times in her life. At age 12 she joined us for a few months. She went home and had a re-entry into care at the age of 14. She came home for a few weeks and left us again. She returned at the age of 15 for a few short days. She’s home again at the age of 17 and preparing to exit care. Each time she comes home, there is an obvious sign of maturity that is shown in her grade level and physical appearance, but today the sign was the one that makes angels dance and ring the bell over and over again saying “another one got their wings!”

Most people in the community know of our love for animals. It’s almost comical to some at the great lengths we go to to restore their health and include them in our home. During thunderstorms, we are often found under the desk huddled with our beloved Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Sailor. For months post back surgery, he was carried in his crate to allow him to heal while having access to the girls. So today when we were asked to adopt a cat, our four time resident was the first to say YES!!!

The story was all too familiar. The cat is entering care as her caregiver is no longer able to care for her. In this instance, the caregiver is elderly and is moving into a skilled home. Her memory is fading and the cat needs care. When asked why the child wanted to take in the cat her unrehearsed response was “I’ve entered care four times and I remember what it felt like.” The immediate bond between the child and the cat was created out of empathy.

Empathy is not just a word, it is a gesture. It is feeling what someone else feels and taking the initiative to make things better. Today it is obvious that the box has been checked. The child cradling the scared cat who was hours away from a shelter has found a home. As I watch the two connect, my heart smiles. The once angry child who felt the world was against her has grown into a caring young adult.

If you visit a hospital or any program that works tirelessly to heal others, you will likely hear the pitter patter of paws racing down a hall. You will also learn two things. The first is that medical care costs millions of dollars for a long term stay. The outcome is not promised and the negative side effects of medication is obvious. The second is that an animal costs far less and has a positive side effect. The sickest human is kinder when an animal is present. A wet nose, a warm belly, or a long curling tail wrapped around a leg are all signs that the healing has begun. The evidence for us today is the quiet purr of a cat named Olie who has found a home with us.

If you’re able to foster or adopt an animal, please do. They need us as much as we need them. Visit our website often to learn more about what we do! www.angelhousega.com.