I walk down this escalator every time we have court in courtroom H, which is very often. Or at least it feels often because my stomach is in knots and I feel physically sick every time I walk down to turn into the bleak waiting area outside our courtroom. Sure they put a few kid’s books and a painted bench right outside the double doors with warnings that everyone (including myself) ignore about cell phone usage plastered across them, but a few colorful books that are missing pages does little to cause the stress of this place to fade. It is a war zone. People are fighting each other, their family, the system, their own addictions, lack of support systems, generations of racism and oppression, to name a few. It is a place of lack and not abundance.  It makes me so sick in part because I am often living in abundance- socially, physically, educationally, spiritually. And this reminds me that is not the story of this world and I am forced to reckon with all that means. I am forced to see and deal with my own privilege and my own broken yuck of a mess. I am called to this place that co-exists with abundance and I am forced to just sit in it.  And it is remaking me.  I can choose to be present and to feel it.  I am trying to do just that.  It does little to make me feel less like throwing up when I search down a list of names to find the number assigned to the sweet soul who we have come to love as our daughter.

This escalator has never worked on a day we had court here. Never in 2 years.  Ever.

It feels like a metaphor for the broken system that decides the future for many children, young people, and families caught in this system.  Stuck. This system we are all complicit in creating and maintaining with our care or more often lack thereof.  Our family has been navigating this system for only 2 years but have come to believe it often misses the REAL things because they are still just trying to get the escalator fixed.  It is not simple.  I do not fault the social workers, lawyers, state’s attorneys GALs, personnel solely.  As a former Chicago Public school teacher I am not quick to point fingers because I get that these systemic breakdowns are so difficult to unravel.  I see it, it visits my home in clumsy forms to fill out with no real sense of who this child really is. I hear it in the silence of months as to any information about the child dropped off here who screams throughout the night.  It is real when day after day, week after week, no social worker appears until threats are made.

I have learned to lament. My lament has some days crushed me to the breaking point.  It has made me weak and angry some days. My dear sisters and family have had the burden and blessing of reminding me to continue on.  And I have learned I can hold BOTH lament & HOPE.   Today things moved forward for our case and yet all I could do once I got into the comfort of my mini van was cry.  Because I have seen too much and felt too much to naively think there is any real winning in this. I hold onto to so much Hope in the God who makes us new.  I feel Him in so many ways and I am grateful for the glimpses. After many frustrating court cases in the beginning of our case I stopped praying for things to happen- not because I was giving up (although if I am totally honest maybe part of me just could not take the disappointment)- but also because I sensed I just needed to ask to SEE HIM in whatever happened (or didn’t happen).  So I always pray now, “Jesus, please allow me to just see you in THIS.”  Which I actually think is one of the bravest and most vulnerable prayers we can pray friends because God IS in all of our stuff it is just so often I miss Him.  But today on the escalator I felt His presence giving me permission to be so, so sad.  There is so much to lament and tears can cleanse and make room for new healing. Friends, today will you cry with me over broken escalators?        


  1. Anonymous says:

    I know courtroom H all to well, we spent many days there trying to gain custody of my neice and nephews. Actually my mom, their grandmother fought for over a year to have custody even though that is what the parents wanted! It is a broken system, with broken people. I worked in the system, I grew up not far from that court, but everytime I sat thete waiting I could not help to feel the injustice pushed upon those who were young and poor and minority. I would sometimes think, why do I feel different, I could walk up to a laywer and have a conversation, I could answer coherently to the judge. It was because I was not poor, I was not black, I did not look Mexican and I had no prior cases. If you are one of those in the minority you will offered rotten caseworkers, judges that are racially bias. Witnessing this made me a stronger person. Be strong, learn your lessons, you have unknown privilege. this is the time you use them to help you get your family, gloves off! Once that is done, you take your pretty Caucasian educated self down there and give a helping hand to those in need to navigate this broken system.