Writings by Cole Huffman

Dispatch from the DMV

I met a woman at the well (see John 4) moments ago. I write this from the DMV. We're here to get Caleb's driver's permit. Banished to the waiting area while Caleb is tested, the only empty chair was next to a beautiful young woman, around 20, with two small kids in tow. From her appearance I could never guess her story. She looked like a young Germantown mom.

Her four-year-old girl spoke to me, so I volunteered for conversation that I have five kids, including a four-year-old boy. The mother then said something you don't hear everyday: "My daughter and I just got out of foster care."

Three babies have been born to her by different fathers. She was first a mother at 15. My Caleb is 15 today. Her stepfather, the only dad she knows, has been imprisoned for the last nine years but gets out Wednesday. She's worried that he won't return to her mother, whom she adores and now lives with, because her mother is imprisoned herself, by alcoholism, and the stepfather has said he won't go back to her if she's drinking.

I never asked her name, but she's at the DMV because she needs a picture ID to retrieve her birth certificate, and yet also needs a birth certificate to receive a picture ID! She can't register her oldest daughter in Kindergarten without it, and is stuck in a bit of bureaucratic limbo. She seems to me implacable in the face of this frustration, one who remains poised to a challenge, and she's had many. Her foster care was disastrous and abusive. She was sent to homes where the foster parents were in it only for the money. She's the one who paid.

I told her that my four-year-old is adopted, and of Lynn's and my interest in foster care; that I've written for publication and advocated in our church for this. It's an arena in which too few Christian families venture, and our salt and light is missed by people like my seat mate in the DMV waiting area. She's going to church now and has a pastor she can confide in. She knows the taste of living water and wants to stay close to the reservoir, to make things different for her kids. It's obvious to me she's an intelligent, well-spoken girl. I urged her to try to pull close to some ladies at her church for encouragement and wisdom.

She prays a lot. She told me about yesterday at her church, how the pastor addressed addiction issues. Her voice quietly trailed off, "Yesterday was a good day." I said, "It really is one day at a time for you, isn't it?" She nodded and wiped her eyes.

It occurs to me that when I say "yesterday was a good day" it never has a context of desperation attached to it because I haven't lived in dire straits. Dire Straits for me is a band that was popular when I was 15, in the early days of MTV. For her it's the runaround at the DMV and most everywhere else she goes except church, thankfully.

But I pose the question: where was the church when she needed a solid home, she and her little daughter? Why is the foster system not flooded with evangelicals providing homes? How many of our people have the room in their homes and their hearts? One good home with foster parents in it for redemptive reasons would have made a substantial difference to her whole life, and even the lives of her kids. For most of us, our yesterdays were mostly good days. Our todays are even better. We can do some really good things about the tomorrows of more than a few.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 7:40 PM
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