Mim Collins, Psy.D., MFT


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May-June 2017

And God Still Cries... by Mim Collins, Psy.D., MFT

Part 2

It wasn't until the training was over that we had some time to sightsee and experience Johannesburg as tourists. We had a driver our first free day, who drove us through Soweto to the homes of the black middle class professionals. The homes were much like any other middle area residential area, clean, stable with one or two cars in the driveway. I wasn't especially impressed.

What struck me, was that just a few hundred yards away were the tin shanties. I wondered how and why the residents of those shacks would so easily allow us, white tourists, to so casually walk through their tiny city, welcome us into their homes, allowing us to intrude on their privacy. I felt uncomfortable, like we were gaping at them, judging them, feeling sorry for them. I had a physical response; not just heartbreak for their tragic situation—no electricity, only one spigot for running water for the entire settlement, no schools, but also a sense of sickness inside for their entrapment in this social prison. It was suggested that we give them some money on the way out. Now I understood why we had been allowed in.

I had read about the poverty in South Africa and seen documentaries but this was different. Now I could feel it. The sense of racial and social imbalance was driven even deeper when we visited the Apartheid Museum. We were all given tickets to enter the structure. Some of the tickets said "white" and some of the tickets said, "non-white." The tickets designated entrance through different doors. That intentional experience threw us back to Apartheid. In spite of all the advances in the last number of years, in spite of the miracle of Mandela's release from prison after 27 years on Robben Island, and his "Long Walk to Freedom;" I realized that apartheid still exists!!

This experience took me back to my childhood. I remember spending the first 8 years of my life in a town smaller than Dover. There was a "colored" section of the town. It just was there, and everyone knew about it and as my mother said, "everyone knows their place." I took it for granted and felt lucky to have been born white. Now, I felt the divide so deeply that for the first time in my life, I recognized it everywhere.

As I walked slowly through the museum, one picture in particular caught my attention. In the picture, two men (I honestly can't remember if they were black or white men) were lowering a dead naked black man into a mass grave. Good God! I thought. How different was Apartheid from the Holocaust???

What the hell have people done to each other, and are still doing??? Segregation, mass graves, hangings, burnings concentration camps!!! What is wrong with us??? And in my heart I felt once again the pain and sorrow that I felt when I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau just seven months earlier. At that time I wrote a article and called it, "And God Was Crying," and now in my heart I realize that "God Still Cries."

When we began on our first day, Sharon had shared with us that in the afternoons we would gather in the pastures with the horses to process our experience of the day, instead of under the shed where we had gathered In the morning. She explained that the children would be coming for afterschool playtime, and all day Saturday for their Christmas party and would be using the shed. "The children? What children?" I wondered aloud.

In time we asked Sharon about where the children came from. She promised that she would show us on the last day. So in the afternoon, after our last training, Sharon piled us into her 4-wheel drive and drove us through the shanty town nearest her ranch. There we saw where the children came from. It was even more devastating than the previous shanty towns that we had seen. Again, no electricity; no hot water, no sanitation, except for a few outhouses; some without doors. This is where "her" children lived.

We learned that over the years Sharon and her life-partner had arranged a program where these children, as part of the community, would have access to the world that Sharon could provide. Every afternoon we had seen them taking care of the horses, riding them, playing with the animals on the ranch, playing soccer. It was another world for them; a short break from the one in which they lived.

We also noticed that one little black girl never left the ranch. We soon discovered that Hanna, the seven year-old, was the adopted daughter of Sharon and her partner. Sharon shared that they had received Hanna on the day that she was born. Hanna had not know any other life than the warmth, comfort, and safety of two beloved and loving parents, two teenage sisters and a world of pastures to roam and horses and dogs to befriend.

Later at our closing party I had an opportunity to speak with Sharon about her daughter. I asked about Hanna's experience, growing up with white parents who could provide a world of safety and wonder for her, while other children who were the same color lived under such different circumstances. Sharon was accustomed to discussing this issue and simply said in a gentle and embracing way, "It's always been an ongoing discussion." Just as Sharon and her partner have availed themselves to this blessed little girl, so have they opened their hearts to an amazing gesture of generosity and kindness to their community of children who otherwise might have no chance. Now they have a chance…And God Smiles Upon Them

Mim Collins is in private practice in Valley Village, and can be reached by phone at 818.763.8222 or through her professional website, www.mimcollinstherapy.com

San Fernando Valley Chapter – California Marriage and Family Therapists