Little One has started calling me Ma pretty regularly now.
Though I never call myself Ma, I’ve stopped correcting the people that do.
And all of this hurts my heart a little.
Ma, Ma, Ma. Little One whines, tapping my leg to get my attention.
Friend? You want Friend? I ask.
This is what my nephews and niece call me.
And it is what I have always called myself to Little One.
I do all the things a Ma would do.
I cannot let the word escape my mouth.
I’ve never slipped up. The stakes are too high.
I know Little One’s Ma.
I have looked into her eyes. Heard a little of her story. Cried and cried for her.
Prayed for her with as much fire as I’ve prayed for anyone. Ever.
Because here’s the thing nobody tells you when you sign up for foster care.
Judgment comes easy in theory.
But when there is a living, breathing person standing in front of you, compassion wins.
Overwhelming, unexplainable compassion.
Compassion that complicates everything.
The truth is, she loves Little One.
Of this I am absolutely sure.
The rest of the truth is that if I had been born into different circumstances and made different choices,
I could be her.
When I look into her eyes, I see humanity.
I see heartache and struggle. And hope.
My brain screams the importance of consequences.
It wants to tally the injustices, to keep a record of wrongs.
But my heart cannot go there.
Its stubborn, unyielding allegiance is to Little One’s Ma.
Rooting for her again and again.
I look into Little One’s dancing, hopeful eyes and I see her there.
Friends, it’s easy to judge, easy to hate in theory.
But life is not about theories.
It’s about people.
With real names. And real stories.
People who are painfully real. And hard to hate.
Even when compassion complicates everything.