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135 MAY 2010
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Relationship leaps

Karl Gompf

It continues to amaze me how Child and Youth Care practice teaches so many wonderful life lessons. The ultimate bottom line lesson may be that there is a powerful satisfaction in knowing that we have made a difference in the life of a child. It seems that our caring rebounds, circles around, and the circles continue in ways unknown to us. Such a circle brings me to Chad.

Chad was only five when he witnessed the murder of his mother. Frightened, he ran from the upstairs of his house. Years later he remembered and still felt the numb sensation in his hands as he slid down the drainpipe. At the age of twelve, he was known as a seriously “disturbed” youngster, a “walking time bomb” according to one professional opinion. Over the years Chad's story had been lost. No one seemed to know much about the events surrounding the murder and Chad was reluctant to talk about it. There were few family members, all seemingly unwilling to be involved in Chad's life. Like clockwork, the height of Chad's pain surfaced every year in the same week in May. He was rageful, he couldn’t sleep, he was potentially violent, he was hurting. In a desperate attempt to seek information that might help Chad, a Child and Youth Care worker began to search in the library, focusing on the May obituary columns in the year of the murder. The search proved to be fruitful. The date of the funeral for Chad's mother matched the date each year when he was most upset. Anniversary trauma at work.

Chad was excited to learn about the details highlighted in his mother’s obituary. He was particularly excited to learn where she was buried and desperately wanted to visit her. Accompanied by two Child and Youth Care workers, he searched the headstones in a quiet, peaceful, rural cemetery. At last, he found his mother’s headstone and gently laid colourful flowers on the earth below. Then, remembering that his grandparents lived in a small town only a few miles distant from the cemetery, he asked to visit them.

A short visit with his grandfather led to another visit with his elderly, ailing grandmother who happened to be in the local hospital. She was so delighted to see Chad. She hugged him, gave him some money, and asked him to come back to see her. She died one week later.

The beauty of this story is in the many lessons taught: issues related to separation and loss, the impact of childhood trauma and anniversary trauma, reuniting with family, how the genuine caring embedded in Child and Youth Care can help a child.

However, the most poignant lesson for me is that our caring is often submerged in avoidance. For years, caregivers avoided the hard work required to help Chad. No one searched out his story. No one developed a close relationship with him. No one took him to visit his grandparents. No one asked him what might help as he grieved the loss of his mother. At last, a Child and Youth Care worker took the leap in helping Chad and he was on his way to healing. It has paid off for him today.

Child and Youth Care teaches that we must be risk takers, we must take that leap of faith as we continue on our relational journey. Yet we (or is it just I) still avoid and procrastinate. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, teaches artists how to become unblocked. She teaches that after the leap the net always appears. Chad taught me that this was true.

This feature: Gompf, K. (2004). Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 17, 4. p. 78.

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