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Poem: "The Smallest Act of Caring" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Smallest Act of Caring"
This poem is spillover from the November 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "smile" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music Fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Smallest Act of Caring"


Romy Morales first moved into
the New York Sankofa Home
after his father passed away.

It was rough for a while,
because everything was new
and he didn't know anyone.

He missed his father terribly
and cried himself to sleep
every night, which of course
kept the other boys awake.

That left him exhausted.
He couldn't concentrate in
his new school, and didn't care.

All Romy could think about was
how if his father hadn't been coming
to pick him up from soccer practice,
he wouldn't have died in that car crash.

Romy's new school asked if he
wanted to try out for their team,
but it just wasn't fun anymore.

Nothing seemed like fun anymore.

When it didn't get better after
a few months, Romy's houseparents
suggested that he talk with a therapist
and maybe some other kids who
had lost a parent recently.

So he met with Miss O'Luain
on Mondays and then with
support group on Thursdays
to talk about his feelings, which
helped him to get unstuck.

Soon Romy got to know
the other kids in his room.

Pierce showed him how
to ride a scooter. Cade and
his older sibling Kennedy showed
Romy the exercise room downstairs.

The houseparents were nice;
Mr. Rais took each of the kids for
a private walk once a week, and
Mr. Hennessey led gymnastics.

Miss Bautz gave music lessons
on the grand piano in the parlor,
and Miss Mas taught Spanish.

It took longer for Romy
to make friends with the girls,
because they had less in common.

The sisters Anna and Emily were
refugees from the Dominican Republic,
and the kind of Spanish they spoke was
different from what Miss Mas taught.

Fizzah loved everyone, and she
clung to Romy like a small brown burr.
At first it felt weird, but he got used to it,
and at least he's not alone anymore.

Sidonie showed him how the library
was organized and told him that
it's okay to climb the ladders.

Ami was Filipina, although
her one-year-old son Datu
clearly had a black daddy.
Together, they taught Romy
how to change a diaper
and hold a baby bottle.

In time, his own grief
began to fade, and he
discovered some of what
the others mourned as well.

Romy hadn't thought of that before.

Cade and Kennedy were
abused, mostly because of how
Kennedy isn't a boy or a girl and
Family Services didn't want to leave
Cade alone with mean parents.

Ami had run away from home
to live with her boyfriend, but
he dumped her after she
got pregnant with Datu.

Mr. Hennessey was twitchy
about all of the bad things
happening around Asia.

Romy hated seeing people sad
and wished he could do something
to help them feel a little better.

He asked Mr. Rais for advice,
because everyone in the house
turned to the older man for help,
even the other houseparents.

Mr. Rais suggested that Romy
study emotional first aid, which
would expand on the coping skills
that he had learned in therapy.

So Romy revisited grounding,
breathing, and positive self-talk with
an eye toward coaching others.

He learned active listening and
validation from Miss O'Luain.

He went back to Mr. Rais for
lessons in organizing things,
because it was Mr. Rais who
kept the whole house together.

At first Romy felt a little shy
about offering to help people,
but then Anna and Emily got into
a fight over a doll, and okay, Romy
understood how to work through that.

When Ami had a panic attack over
whether she was a good enough mother,
Romy sat with her and talked her through
the grounding and the deep breathing
until she could relax again.

Kennedy came home crying
because someone at school had
teased thon about being nonbinary,
so Romy listened and then did his best
to reflect Kennedy's identity back
and give thon some support.

One day Mr. Hennessey started
crying over a news show about
what was happening to soups in
North Korea, and Romy worked on
reframing it in more hopeful terms
and organizing ways to fight back.

After that, Romy asked Mr. Rais for
ways of reaching out to other people,
and Mr. Rais made arrangements with
his brother who worked in the subway
so Romy could set up a table there.

At first it was kind of scary just sitting at
a table waiting to give people advice,
but once he got started, it was fine.

He had a list of familiar topics like
sibling rivalry, test anxiety, and bullying
but people asked about all kinds
of other things beyond those.

Romy listened to kids who had
handicaps and grownups who
lost their jobs, and he helped them
figure out how to feel better and
sometimes gave practical tips.

Romy loved helping people,
loved seeing how smiling at them
could make them smile too.

The more he worked, the more
he thought that he wanted to do this
forever, and that got him thinking about
helping people for a job when he grew up.

His houseparents encouraged him
and talked about what he would
need to study in college later.

When a homeless man turned up
hungry, Romy bought him lunch
out of the money he collected
from giving emotional advice.

From then on, he split the money,
putting some in his college fund and
some into the household budget for
toys and entertainment, but he still
kept some to hand out at need.

Romy adored the way that
even the smallest act of caring for
another person is like a drop of water,
making ripples throughout the entire pond.

When he thought about that, then he
didn't miss his father so much any more.

Mr. Rais had asked him about adoption,
and for a while Romy had thought that
he'd like a new family some day.

By the end of the first year,
though, he decided against it.

He had already found his new family.

* * *

Notes:

Romy Morales -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and short curly black hair. His heritage is black and Hispanic. He is eleven years old. Romy lives in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, where he landed after his single father passed away. Pierce, Kennedy, Cade, and Romy share the 4th floor boys' room. The first year was rough, but eventually Romy bonded with his new houseparents and foster siblings that he decided against seeking adoption elsewhere. Romy wants to work with disadvantaged people when he grows up, so he's practicing now by learning things like Emotional First Aid. He volunteers at a local community center and also sets up in the subway station.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional First Aid, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Parkour, Good (+2) Unconventional Family
Poor (-2) Book Learning

Chet Hennessey -- He has deep golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and short dark hair. He has a heart-shaped face and a trim body. His heritage includes Thai, Chinese, Korean, and American. He speaks Chinese, English, Italian, Korean, Pwo Karen, Russian, Spanish, and Thai. Chet is 39 years old. He works as a housefather at the Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. Chet (yellow and gray bed) and Saverio Rais (brown and white bed) share the master bedroom on the third floor. Athletic and outgoing, Chet teaches the children about their bodies and teamwork. However, he carries some communal trauma due to tensions throughout Asia.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Housefather, Good (+2) Languages
Poor (-2) Communal Trauma

Cade Engemann -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and brown hair buzzed short. He is 7 years old. He and his older sibling Kennedy are staying in foster care due to abuse. They live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, after removal from an abusive home. Pierce, Kennedy, Cade, and Romy share the 4th floor boys' room. Cade loves baseball, gymnastics, and other sports. His favorite color is lime.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Friendly
Poor (-2) Sitting Still

Kennedy Engemann -- Thon has fair skin, blue eyes, and dark blond hair buzzed short. Thon wears glasses and is non-binary. Thon is 13 years old. Kennedy and thon's younger brother Cade are staying in foster care due to abuse. They live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. Pierce, Kennedy, Cade, and Romy share the 4th floor boys' room. Kennedy's favorite color is pink.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Photographer
Poor (-2) Fitting In

Caridad Mas -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and long straight hair of dark brown that turns rusty in the sun. Her heritage is Puerto Rican. Caridad is 22 years old. Bilingual in English and Spanish, she teaches Spanish to the children in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. Caridad (kitchenette bed) and Rosanna Bautz (living room bed) share the first floor staff room. She also helps people tell the story of their own life and put things in perspective. She's not good at math, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Life Narratives, Good (+2) Linguistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Patience, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

Anna San Nicolas -- She has tinted skin, black eyes, and long curly hair of dark brown. Anna is 7 years old. She is the older sister of Emily, who follows her everywhere. Their heritage is Dominican; they speak Dominican Spanish and are struggling to learn English. They live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, after arriving in America as unaccompanied refugees. Emily and Anna share the 5th floor girls' room in the front of the house. Anna's favorite color is lilac. Positive and outgoing, she makes friends easily. However, she finds it difficult to control small objects.
Qualities: Good (+2) Leadership, Good (+2) Optimist
Poor (-2) Manual Dexterity

Emily San Nicolas -- She has tinted skin, black eyes, and long wavy hair of dark brown. She is 5 years old. She is the younger sister of Anna and follows her everywhere. Their heritage is Dominican; they speak Dominican Spanish and are struggling to learn English. They live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, after arriving in America as unaccompanied refugees. Emily and Anna share the 5th floor girls' room in the front of the house. Emily's favorite color is turquoise. She is cheerful and upbeat in general.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Followship
Poor (-2) Linguistic Intelligence

Rosanna Bautz -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long hair of light brown. She's a little chunky, though. She teaches piano and musical theory in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. Rosanna (living room bed) and Caridad Mas (kitchenette bed) share the 1st floor staff room. Rosanna enjoys teamwork and excels at getting people to work together. Her example encourages others to practice and work hard. Even in a house full of noisy kids, she can sleep through the night without difficulty.
Qualities: Good (+2) Diligent, Good (+2) Memory, Good (+2) Music Teacher, Good (+2) Sleep Through Anything, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Out of Shape

Fizzah Patinkin -- She has butterscotch skin, brown eyes, and nappy brown hair typically worn in two puffs. She is 6 years old. She lives in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, taken into care due to neglect. She and Sidonie share the 5th floor girls' room in the back of the house. Adorable and energetic, Fizzah bounces around the townhouse with great enthusiasm. She's not good at picking up after herself, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Affectionate, Good (+2) Bouncy
Poor (-2) Messy

Sidonie Duggs -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She wears glasses. She is 9 years old. Sidonie lives in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, removed from a family that supported neither her high intelligence nor her low vision. She and Fizzah Patinkin the 5th floor girls' room in the back of the house. Sidonie has a dog named Éponine.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Smart, Good (+2) Bookworm
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

Amihan "Ami" Guinto -- She has tinted skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker brown. Her heritage is Filipina. She is 16 years old. Ami had run away from home to live with her boyfriend, but he dumped her after she got pregnant with her son Datu. Now Ami and Datu live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. They share the 4th floor teen mother room. Tough and courageous, Ami can take care of herself. She struggles with motherhood, and some people look down on her for having a child so young, but she is determined to keep Datu.
Qualities: Good (+2) Brave, Good (+2) Loving, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Teen Mother

Datu Guinto -- He has light brown skin, black eyes, and short nappy brown hair. His heritage is Filipino and African-American. He is 1 year old. He and his mother Ami live in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. They share the 4th floor teen mother room. Cute and cuddly, Datu is popular with everyone. He fumbles toys and falls over himself while standing up. He's making progress, but hits the physical milestones a month or more behind average.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cute
Poor (-2) Clumsy

Saverio Rais -- He has olive skin, hazel eyes, and short dark hair. He is going bald, and his short beard is turning silver. His heritage is Italian; he is bilingual in English and Italian. Saverio is 49 years old. He lives in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord. Saverio (brown and white bed) and Chet Hennessey (yellow and gray bed) share the master bedroom on the third floor. He takes each of the kids for a private walk once a week. One reason he prefers walking is because of his motion sickness, which makes traveling in a vehicle uncomfortable for him. Wise and discreet, Saverio is the favorite houseparent when someone needs advice.
Qualities: Master (+6) Housefather, Expert (+4) Hiker, Expert (+4) Love Language of Quality Time, Good (+2) Fixing Things, Good (+2) Privacy Maintains, Good (+2) Wisdom
Poor (-2) Motion Sickness

Pierce Asplund -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy hair to his chin. He is 8 years old. He lives in a Sankofa Home in the New York suburb of Eastbord, taken into care because his parents used drugs. Pierce, Kennedy, Cade, and Romy share the 4th floor boys' room. Pierce loves all forms of human-powered vehicles. He owns both a scooter and a skateboard, also sharing a bicycle with his foster siblings. He loves horses too, but hasn't had a chance to ride any yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cuddly, Good (+2) Hell on Wheels
Poor (-2) Being Alone

Avilynn O'Luain -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and curly red hair to her chin. She wears glasses. Her heritage is Irish and American. She is 35 years old. Avilynn works as a grief counselor, primarily with children and teens. She has Equestrian Oratory Therapy certification in childhood parental loss, as her mother died in childbirth when she was 12. Avilynn loves outdoor activities such as frisbee, hopscotch, and birdwatching. As a result, she has friends at most of the parks in her area. Her main regret is that she hasn't found a boyfriend comfortable with both her profession and her past.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Friends in the Park, Good (+2) Grief Counselor, Good (+2) Outdoor Activities, Good (+2) Playful
Poor (-2) Single

* * *

"Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond."
Jessy and Bryan Matteo

The New York Sankofa Home is a huge townhouse. Sankofa Homes are often big houses, sometimes fancy, other times plain. There are 14 people living in six bedrooms, mostly in pairs with one quad. The house includes a lot of common space, so that people can gather together for company or separate for privacy. Terramagne-America understands that it's easier to recover from difficult setbacks in a beautiful environment, and it's cheaper to house a bunch of people together than separately. See a floor plan. In the basement, the utility room next to the exercise room has been renovated into a bathroom.

The exercise room in the basement provides soft and hard equipment suitable for all ages. The bathroom is done in green, yellow, and white tiles with colorful artwork. It has two sinks, a toilet, and a bathtub. The laundry room in the basement has built-in cabinets, a large-capacity washer and dryer, a sink with marble countertops, and a matching marble table. The elevator is paneled in wood.

The kitchen has a corridor style with marble countertops and a matching table. It has two stoves, two separate sinks each with its own window, and a separate full-size refrigerator and freezer.

The 1st floor staff room has a kitchenette with a small table and chairs. The rest has been partially divided to hold two double beds. It also has a television and a desk. Caridad Mas (kitchenette bed) and Rosanna Bautz (living room bed) share this room. This is the ensuite bathroom. The den includes several clusters of tables, chairs, and couches for various ages, along with curtained alcoves for privacy. The den bathroom has a sink and a toilet. The corner shower includes a rainshower, showerhead on hose, and a built-in seat.

The 2nd floor parlor features a fireplace and a grand piano. The powder room has a toilet and a sink in shades of brown and white. The gallery displays arts and crafts by residents as well as professional artists. The sunroom includes a pit group, tables and chairs, and large floor plants.

The 3rd floor library has a fireplace, desks and chairs, and lounges. Built-in bookcases with rolling ladders line the walls. Chet Hennessey (yellow and gray bed) and Saverio Rais (brown and white bed) share the master bedroom. They use a rolling room divider for privacy as needed. The master bedroom also has a kitchenette, table with chairs, and television. The master bathroom has a bathtub between two sinks, a toilet stall, and a shower stall.

The 4th floor boys' room has a set of four built-in bunk beds. Pierce, Kennedy, Cade, and Romy share this room. They have an attached study room with chairs, desks, shelves, and chalkboards. The bathroom has a toilet-sink combo with a shower to the left. The teen mother room belongs to Amihan and her son Datu. It has a full-size bed and a crib. The gray-and-white walls show a forest scene. The teen mother bathroom has a sink with marble countertop, a bathtub with shower hose, a nursing chair, a shower stall, and a toilet.

The 5th floor girls' room in the front of the house has a pair of built-in loft beds over desks. The walls are painted lilac and turquoise. Emily and Anna share this room. The bathroom is turquoise with a marble countertop. It has a sink, a toilet, and a bathtub with shower. The girls also have a study area on the landing by the stairs. The upstairs laundry room has built-in cabinets with a stacked washer and dryer on one side and a sink on the other. The 5th floor girls' room in the back of the house has a pair of bunk beds along with dressers. Sidonie and Fizzah share this room. The bathroom is pink with roses.

The solarium has an assortment of desks and chairs with artwork. The terrace outside has a hot tub and lounges surrounded by planters full of greenery. The 6th floor is primarily a retreat space for the adults.

Complicated grief has many causes. Children are especially at risk. Grief can make people sick. Losing a parent is particularly hard on children, who need extra help. Understand how to support a grieving friend or a child in mourning. Here are some things grieving people wish that someone would say.

Grief and depression are not at all the same thing, although they can overlap and may share many of the same symptoms. It is malpractice to lie that someone is sick by pathologizing the universal human experience of grief. An interesting point of divergence in T-America is how they handle risk factors. Everyone has a combination of risk factors and resilience factors for various aspects of physical and mental health. T-America looks at risk factors individually to see how they can be reduced for a given person, but also accounts for them collectively -- it's not considered worrisome until risk factors exceed resilience factors, so long as the person is doing okay.

Counseling can help children and teens work through mourning. There are worksheets and workbooks to help. This handout shows emotions relating to loss. Here are some healing activities for youth. This handbook helps counselors to support grieving teens.

Equestrian Oratory Therapy -- this actually has nothing to do with horses or speeches. It's an oblique way of saying "from the horse's mouth." In this school of counseling, a therapist can only be licensed to treat conditions they have personally experienced and overcome or at least learned to live with. Counselors who have survived multiple challenges may choose to specialize in one or handle clients from the whole range. (They can still treat other problems, just not within this system.) The goal is to teach people how to live with the body/mind they have. It's like peer therapy, and in fact had its roots there, but functions at a professional level now.

People debate whether or not to have siblings share a bedroom. In local-America, laws and other rules are patchy. Among the common rules in Terramagne-America: Most bedrooms are single-sex. Brothers and sisters may share a room if both wish to do so, for the sake of continuity in stressful situations. Gender-variant youth and/or homosexual youth may choose to share a room with either boys or girls if everyone agrees, or have a room of their own. Teen parents can easily be accommodated in a teen room by adding a crib.

Emotional First Aid includes some important life skills. Know how to give emotional support and advice.

Conflict resolution is a natural part of family life. There are tips for adults and children.

Grounding anchors you in the here-and-now. Learn some techniques for grounding.

Breathing in proper form aids mental and physical health. Explore some exercises for breathing.

Active listening helps people connect better. Follow the steps for active listening.

Validation is a way of expressing acceptance.

Self-talk is your inner voice. Positive self-talk can pick you up when you're down. Learn how to improve your self-talk.

Organization is an essential life skill. Learn how to be more organized.

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