By SARAH STEINFELDT
The roast chicken and mashed potatoes were a far cry from whatever squishy and unidentifiable thing she had dug out of the Dumpster behind McDonald’s last Christmas Eve; yet as she created gravy rivers in the potatoes with her fork, she found all she wanted was that McDonald’s dinner back.
“All okay, Maya?”
“What?” Maya jerked out of her stupor at the gentle voice addressing her.
“Well, most people don’t spend 10 minutes drawing pictures in their mashed potatoes.”
Maya laid her fork down sheepishly.
“You’re safe here, princess, you know that, right?”
A chair scraped the floor next to her as the head staff of the refuge home, Laura, eased herself down next to Maya.
“Then what do you want, Maya?” It wasn’t asked unkindly.
“I don’t know. Not...what I think I’m supposed to want.”
“What do you think you’re supposed to want?”
“I don’t know.” Tears stung Maya’s eyes as she pushed her plate away. “What I have right now, I guess. But I don’t.”
“Maya,” Laura said quietly. “Life is hard, and I really don’t have any answers for it. What I can tell you is that living with a new normal seems a lot more difficult than the one you knew, no matter what it was. You have spent your whole life becoming friends with being unsafe. You know how to handle it. This...is not so easy but,” She took Maya’s hands in hers. “You are in a home with 20 other girls and staff who love you an awful lot and are glad your Christmas dinner isn’t coming out of a Dumpster this year. We were made for second chances, and if we don’t let ourselves have it, we stand to lose a lot. And it seems to me that Christmas is the perfect time to make it count for extra.”
Nothing had ever counted for Maya at Christmas, or any time of the year.
“Jesus didn’t have the greatest start ever, and He came out okay. And He made it so that you would too. So you hang in there, and maybe you’ll have a different story to tell next year.”
“Look,” one of the other girls exclaimed from the dining room window, “Snow!” There was a flurry of activity as girls and staff alike made their way to the windows to watch the huge beautiful flakes floating lazily to the ground.
Maya gazed out in wonderment; a pair of gentle arms encircled her shoulders.
“Try again,” Laura whispered, “and make it count.”
Maya relaxed in the embrace.