I recently was in the supermarket and ran into someone who said, “Hey, you look familiar. Haven’t we met before?”
Perhaps I look like a lot of different people. (I hate to think about that if I’m ever called in for a lineup.)
The person and I determined that it was 25 years ago when I worked in a park in the Bronx as a recreation director.
She said that I was one of the few who seemed to really help the kids. Her son is in his 20s now.
Some parents used us as free daycare. They’d drop their children off at 8:30 a.m. in front of the park and pick them up at 6 p.m. after work.
Many of the children didn’t have a lunch bag nor money to buy food, so a few of us would always make sure that we brought a few extra slices of pizza.
I never wanted to see youngsters go hungry.
The recreation job was busy during the summer months while we had daily activities.
During the school year it got less hectic. We had mostly seniors until 3 p.m., when the school-age children would come to the parks.
It was during one of those less hectic days I met a woman who had two children, Anthony and Jonathan.
Anthony was about 10 years old and I introduced him to some of the other youngsters his own age.
Jonathan was a few years younger but would try and keep up with his older brother.
Jonathan had trouble hearing and would turn his head to the left and try and figure out what someone was saying. I told his mother about this and she said that she would take him to the agency doctor.
I learned that Anthony and Jonathan were foster care kids and this was my first experience with foster children. Their foster parent gave me her contact along with the agency that the boys were with.
One time Jonathan was at the top of the jungle gym and fell. His foster parent was there in the park when it happened and Jonathan was rushed to the hospital.
He came back the next day with a cast on his arm and wanted to play on the jungle gym, but I taught him how to play checkers instead. Jonathan became quite the checker player and played in the summer tourney and won first place.
He was awarded a trophy for the accomplishment and a few months later he and his brother went back to his mother.
The foster parent had other boys afterwards but there was always a special place in her heart for Anthony and Jonathan.
A few weeks later, I was reading “Catholic New York” and there was a call for foster care caseworkers.
I answered the call and have been helping children achieve permanency ever since.
I’ve had my share of Jonathans during my work and will probably regale you with some stories again.