What can fiction accomplish in real life? I look at the numbers above and wonder about their significance. I had a great night writing, even chatted briefly on IM with another buddy who was also doing some research. Oh, yes, I'm a research junkie. You give me an obscure question and I'll rip up Google trying to find the answers, or come close. Tonight, though, as I enjoy the creative process, my heart is a bit heavy.
This afternoon about 4:30, a police car pulled up behind one of our cars out front (not ours really, it belongs to a friend and he's leaving it with us for now, but that's not part of this story). Then a maroon SUV pulled up just past our mailbox. A young black woman left the SUV and approached our neighbor's house. She clutched a few papers and wore a phone headset. A police officer followed her.
My husband heard the scream. I didn't. But he said it was one of those things he'll never forget.
"No, that's my baby!" The teen mother let out a shriek.
I saw the Child Protective Services worker carry the child, maybe 18 months old, to the maroon SUV. The baby was blonde, cute as a proverbial button, and wore a pink outfit. The CPS worker strapped her into a car seat. Then she and the officer conversed for a moment. I found my glass of tea, and then found my discreet spot at my bathroom window*.
Now Patty was outside talking to the CPS worker. Patty lives next door. It's a rather complicated family. The baby belongs to Patty's boyfriend's teenage daughter. She visits next door sometimes, but I'm not totally sure of the living arrangements. Theirs is a case of "yours and mine," a forty-something couple living together with a gaggle of kids, ranging from ages seven or eight to fifteen or sixteen. I can't keep them all sorted out, but I think at least seven kids live next door. At one point, Patty had kicked out her boyfriend and his posse of offspring. Now, two weeks later, they're back together.
How can my fiction help them? How could a story help them? This is something I'm trying to figure out. I want to reach out somehow but they are a very proud family--their utilities have sometimes been shut off.
Quite frankly, I'm tired. My husband and I know a couple who's needed much counseling and prayer in the past year, and I feel like I've been drained of what I have to give. The thought of pouring out to someone else makes me want to go into a corner and curl up.
Somehow writing with an audience "out there" in mind is easier (I know, I was talking about kicking cabinets the other day). But someone next door needs help, too.
Lately at church we've been talking about basic things. Prayer. Bible study. Fellowship. Service. I could simply tell Patty and Company, "Y'all need Jesus, " something which many who don't believe as I do might interpret as, "You need to go to church." But it's much more than that. I wouldn't dream of someone trying to seek answers from a group, or a "club." I can only tell her what Jesus has done for me and it's up to her what she does from there. Witnessing outright has never come easily for me, I'm sad to admit.
I can tell, too, that I need a recharge after the exhausting couple. No wonder Jesus was always going off to pray. People and their problems can suck the energy out of someone. I can't change people. I can't solve their problems for them. I can't "make" them believe. I can only learn to set boundaries and point them in the right direction (and keep writing).
*After writing this, I realize how voyeuristic I sound. But I'm a people watcher. I can't help it. Really. As much as they drive me nuts and I'd love to be a hermit sometimes, I do care about people.