There once was a little girl named Linda. She was a bit sassy, but in a playful way. Her life was mostly happy, except when her parents fought, which they did quite a bit. Linda was able to be outside, away from the house, for most of the day, and until close to bedtime, which helped her to avoid the fights at home. She had many friends, so her days passed quickly.
One day, Linda’s mother told her that she would be starting school. From the little her mother told her, Linda thought that it sounded like fun. She looked forward to going to school, and it seemed like it was forever before school’s first day. Finally the big day arrived, and Linda was very excited as her mother walked her to the bus stop, kissed her on the forehead, and wished her well.
The first day of school was exciting. Linda had a great time meeting new people and playing games. The first few weeks of school were much like the first day, they were enjoyable and Linda liked school more and more. After a few months, things began to change for Linda. Her teacher was working more and more on reading, and it seemed to Linda that everyone in class was smarter than she (it was almost as if the other kids had someone else helping them). As time went on, Linda got further behind, and she began to feel really dumb. One day, Linda’s teacher asked her to stay after class. Her teacher gently tried to tell Linda that she needed to try harder, but that just made Linda even worse. That night, Linda cried before she went to sleep.
As weeks dragged into months, Linda become more discouraged. She was trying very hard to complete her assignments, but most all of her assignments made her sad when she got them back. Before long, Linda began to give up. Turning in an assignment and not turning in an assignment produced about the same result. Linda just thought to herself, “this is what happens when you are dumb”.
As the months turned into years, school became more depressing for Linda, and she could understand almost none of the material anymore. This made her very bored at school, and Linda began to get into trouble for talking to her friends during class. The lectures from her teachers and the principle became much more stern, and Linda spent quite a bit of time in detention. Her teachers warned Linda that she was making very poor choices, and they told her that she needed to spend much more time on her studies, but Linda couldn’t see how that would help, since she was so dumb.
As Linda got older, she and her parents fought more. Her parents, when angry, threatened to throw her out. It didn’t take too long for Linda to realize that she might not have a place to live much longer. She worried about this a lot.
One day, a new boy came to Linda’s school, his name was Matt. Matt and Linda got to talking, and found that they had much in common. Over time, they became close. Matt made Linda feel not just special, but loved, and it had been a very long time since Linda felt this way. But other girls liked Matt too. Linda was very worried that she would lose Matt. Matt was the only thing in her life that made her feel more than worthless.
One day soon, to her horror, Linda discovered that she was pregnant. In a panic, she ran to Matt, in tears. Matt reassured her as best he could, but in the next few weeks, it became clear that Matt no longer wanted to be with Linda. Linda’s parents were furious, and they made life at home very difficult.
Nine months later, Linda gave birth to a son, and she named him Tony. Linda loved Tony very much. Tony became her whole life. Linda would do anything for Tony.
The arrival of a newborn at home increased tensions significantly. As time went on, the fights between Linda and her parents grew worse, as did the fights between Linda’s parents. One night, in desperation, Linda left.
Linda and Tony spent the next few nights with friends. It was not easy. Linda tried very hard to keep the baby quiet, and to keep out of the way, but that didn’t always work. A few of her friend’s parents tried to talk to Linda about making better choices, but Linda didn’t understand exactly what they meant, and certainly didn’t see that she had any options anyway. You can’t live with friends forever, and Linda was fast running out of friends. She hated (really hated) asking people to put her up, but she couldn’t stand the thought of Tony being homeless, so she kept asking.
Linda was now staying with people she barely knew, and it wasn’t long before those who were putting Linda up started asking for things in return. Horrible things. Linda felt so dirty, worthless, and was filled with shame. At least she could provide for Tony, if meagerly. Her love for Tony was all that kept her going. He was her world.
Linda desperately wanted out of the life in which she found herself. She called a few shelters, but they were all full. She even went back to a church she attended once or twice when she was young, but the pastor there told her that she needed to make better choices, and that bad choices bring bad consequences. Linda left, and cried.
One day, the police raided the house where Linda was staying. They were looking for one of the men that lived there. They didn’t find him, but they found Linda and Tony. CPS was called and a case worker came over. She said that Linda was neglecting Tony, that she wasn’t doing enough for him, and she took Tony away. Linda was heartbroken, confused, and terrified. She left, wandered aimlessly for a while, found a park bench, sat down, and began softly to cry.
Linda was alone, lost, hopeless, and completely defeated. A hand touched her shoulder. She looked up, into the kind eyes of a woman. “Hello”, she said, “my name is Anne. What’s wrong?” “It’s too much”, sobbed Linda. “Maybe if you are by yourself”, replied Anne, “but I’ll bet we can get through this together.” “Why would you help me?” asked Linda. “Oh, for now, just know that this is a choice I’m willing to make”, answered Anne.
For a moment, just a moment, Linda felt just a little bit better.