Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Daughter and the "Silver War"

As of late, Adelaide has had a real obsession with history. One night, I came home to find that she had set-up her chess set and she had labeled it the Silver War.  I asked her what the Silver War was. She looked at me with shock and horror and said, "You know when, the North beat the South and Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves." (Turns out the black pieces were the South and the white pieces were the North.) I chuckled and then proceeded to listen to a monologue about Honest Abe and the Underground Railroad. Then she taught me the lore about the Drinking Gourd which guided escaped slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.  I went to the library and brought home a Magic Treehouse about the Silver War.  I am enjoying my little girl's interest in American history--her mom was an American Studies major after all.

In addition to history, last weekend she accompanied me on a train trip to see my mom. I left her with my mom so I could enjoy a silent retreat. Both of us, in very different ways, had a fabulous time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Pastoral Letter: When a Community is Hurting

Dear Parents:

By now, many of you have had a few days to process the events surrounding the death of Cayman 
Naib, a member of the Shipley community, and the greater community of which many of us are a part.

First, be assured that your clergy have been praying for you and your families as the crisis emerged and as the details of his disappearance and death were made public. We have been in contact with some of you by phone and others by e-mail as you expressed your fear, grief, and disbelief. We will continue to be available to those who need comfort and solace as the days unfold, and as questions wax and wane, from you or your children.

To that end, this Sunday we want to strike a delicate balance between our own concerns as parents and the concerns of our children in our formation programs. For the younger children, we will address the situation if it is raised by the children themselves. In children's chapel, children often raise concerns in our prayer time. Be assured, we will acknowledge their concerns in age-appropriate ways. Our regular lessons, however, will continue as planned in their classrooms.

Our Rite 13 youth will have their gathering as usual, but Peter 
Vanderveen will be available to field any questions the kids may want to discuss. We also realize that many of them have talked extensively with counselors, teachers, and parents and may just need church to be church--and not therapy. We will ascertain as we go along. Our high school youth will be going with me and others to St. Gabriel's and will be shepherded as well.

I think it is important to be reminded at a time like this, that the church has been, and always will be, a unique community. Your children have interactions here, every week, with adults who care about them. At every turn, there is somebody other than a parent interacting with them and guiding them. And, in addition to this network of intergenerational care, there is the hope that life triumphs over death, through the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope does not erase pain, or fear, or sadness. But, this hope does promise us that all of our pain and fear and sadness is borne by Jesus. We are not alone as individuals and we are not alone as a community of faith. We are bound together through Christ and nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

I pray you may remind yourselves, and your children, of this truth during this difficult time.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rose Tree Media School District Threatens to Sue, but We Gain our Son's Life

This is a letter written to our lawyer to express our thanks for his pursuit of justice in Elias' case. While we decided to drop our case because the Rose Tree Media School District threatened to sue us, (and we didn't have $30,000 lying around), we ultimately found justice through our lawyer's guidance. We are so very thankful and are reminded what good can be accomplished even in spite of those whose primary goal is to protect finite resources above all else.

We just received your letter in the mail which referenced the dismissal of our case.

I am writing to formally thank you for the work you have done on behalf of Elias--and by ripple effects the work you have done on behalf of our community by making the needs of all children prescient to the school district.  While we did not win our case because of their threat to sue us, it would not be hyperbolic to state as my friend did to me that "you saved Elias' life."

Before we met you, Elias was spiraling under the bureaucratic school system with an overworked school psychologist, a lackadaisical classroom teacher, and a school principal who was beleaguered and ready to retire. When these factors coalesced the day he willingly dug his fingers into his face until his skin bled, we were at a loss. While the school did not even phone us, friends reached out to us and recommended you.

The positive result is that Elias was evaluated by a neuropyschologist who found some basic challenges which led to three formal diagnoses by our neurologist from CHOP. While it is never easy to hear your child's shortcomings, it has proven incredibly helpful as we have solidified and prioritized our needs. With caring practitioners and a new school, Elias is thriving. I am not sure how we would have gotten there without you and the generosity of your spirit and time.

Please do formally thank your law firm for all their hard work and accept our thanks for being a voice of sanity and knowledge in the midst of such a difficult and debilitating school experience.  And so that no one else would undergo the trauma we experienced with the Rose Tree Media School district I will continue to advocate for children with special needs, just as you have advocated for us.

With thanks and admiration,