Exerpt  from “From My Front Row Seat”  by Susan Binkley

When this little girl arrived at Blue Monarch with her mom and siblings, I couldn’t help but think of Nell, the young woman played by Jodie Foster in a movie by the same name. Nell had developed a strange language of her own, which was a combination of her deceased mother’s distorted speech following a stroke and a secret language Nell had shared with her twin who had died decades earlier. Nell lived a life of isolation and had not been exposed to anything different.

This young girl at Blue Monarch, let’s call her “Sadie,” would rush into a room and aggressively lunge at random individuals, scrunch her face, and growl. It wasn’t a mean growl. It was more of an “I don’t know how to express myself, so grrrrrrrrr!”

She rarely spoke and her words were unrecognizable. As with Nell, Sadie’s family members were the only ones who understood her unique language. It must have been frustrating for Sadie to see people glancing at each other with puzzled expressions.

My instinct was to protect Sadie and I couldn’t bear the thought of other children making fun of her. We needed to get her into speech therapy right away!

Sadie was fascinating. It was obvious she was drawn to others, but like a suspicious puppy, she jumped back just in time if anyone reached for her. She was good at judging just the right distance to avoid being touched. It was a mystery how she determined which ones to approach and which ones to ignore. There was no other category.

As part of our recovery process, the women of Blue Monarch deliver their “Readiness Statements” to their peers and our staff. This is a very emotional, and even painful account of the journey that landed them in a place like Blue Monarch. We have discovered this exercise brings great freedom. They express their desires to do something drastically different, and they ask others to hold them accountable. The stories can be horrific and shocking. I have yet to hear one that is not heartbreaking. I often wonder how they cheated death despite all the close calls. It’s a miracle, really.

But these stories are also when I fall in love with their children and begin to see them in a new light. When we hear the experiences their little ones endured, we suddenly understand their behavior. The screaming becomes less annoying, the crying becomes more meaningful, and their constant need for attention is totally understandable. It’s as if a veil is lifted, and the child transforms into a tiny person who desperately needs our help instead of a loud, unruly kid out of control.

When I heard Sadie’s mother describe her personal journey, I completely understood why she cried nonstop for the first two weeks at Blue Monarch, and why her daughter only growled at others. It suddenly made sense. I could see why Sadie either never learned to talk or refused to talk by choice. No wonder. In fact, I found myself cheering her on.

“You go, girl! You talk when you are good and ready!”

Sadie began working with a speech therapist, and in the meantime, she and her family settled into their new lives at Blue Monarch. She loved our pets and farm animals. She developed friendships with the other children at Blue Monarch. We focused on Sadie’s recovery as much as we did her mom’s, and the little girl thrived with everything our children’s program had to offer. Sadie was happy and knew she was in a good place. Her brother even pulled me aside one afternoon and said, “Miss Susan, you know what I love most about Blue Monarch? I know we are safe!” Sadie seemed to know that as well.

It took almost a year, but one day I suddenly realized Sadie had broken through many of the barriers she’d faced when she first arrived. Sadie had just gotten home from school when she ran into my office with a million questions. “What’s this? What’s this?” She was a little old for that type of question, but I was happy to answer every single one. She jumped into my lap, hugged me, looked out the window at the house we were building for more families, and said, “Look! That’s our new house!”

I realized in that moment that I understood her speech completely, and it was not because she and I had become family. It was because Sadie was becoming a new creation—just like her mom. If you ask me, that calls for a victory cry—like a big fat “Grrrrrrr!”

Now that I think about it . . . perhaps that’s what it was all along.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Susan Binkley, Founder and President, Blue Monarch – www.bluemonarch.org

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