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The Fire

One cold December, a 14 year old girl with Fetal Alcohol symptoms and multiple incidents of violence and abandonment in her short life, set a fire under the pillow of one of her housemates. She was mad about something that seemed pretty important at the time, but of course no one can remember now what that something was. The fire spread far and fast, but thanks to the very capable staff, everyone was quickly and safely out on the street, albeit in various states of undress. Neighbors came over with coats and coffee while the firemen got the fire under control. It was actually a very calm crisis, as crises at Wood’s Homes go.

No one was hurt. Everyone had a place to stay. There were lots of staff about who stayed with the kids to comfort and reassure them. For quite awhile, no one knew who set the fire and, as kids do, they pointed fingers in all directions. The police were asking questions and listening carefully. The staff were waiting and watching…they knew it was just a matter of time till the truth showed up. Meanwhile, the innocent were blamed; the bullies were looking suspicious…it was all pretty classic.

Finally, she surfaced – the angry one. That it was her was actually a surprise.

Then the anger really came. Kids were afraid to be in the same room with her; they taunted and ridiculed her. The staff worried she would do it again. The house was unlivable and so the disruption, as well as the destruction became her fault, too. There were charges of course and the inevitable and almost unbearable waiting for consequences.

She packed her bag and waited in silence to be told where she was going next. She was used to this. Her social worker called to ask what flight she would be on to come back home to the East Coast. She was used to the drill too – screw up, they send you away, that’s the way it goes.

We said, “What are you talking about? You are going no where. We have always said that if someone burned the house down, we would just pitch a tent for him or her to sleep in and then get up the next morning, ready to start rebuilding it. Roll up your sleeves”.

And that is what she did. She helped clean up the mess, explained herself to everyone, apologized to her housemates and cried a lot. When she finally went to court some months later, the judge asked her about what had happened between the fire-setting and now. She said, “I just can’t understand why they forgave me and did not kick me out? I just don’t get it. It’s a mystery”.

That is so true. Wood’s Homes knows that it’s those kinds of mysteries that heal us. They stick with us and work a little magic on our souls while they pave the way ahead for our futures. This young woman has a future.

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