Seeing the Gift in Every Child
“The kids were wronged. And, they were enraged. Many suffered from physical abuse. And, at the end of the day, that’s what we took home in our hearts.”
That’s how Jane McDonald, a St. of St. Joseph nun, recalled her experience working at The Bridge in its early days. On a sub-zero January day, the 78-year old McDonald visited The Bridge. Nearly 30 years had passed since she worked counseling runaway teens and their families.
McDonald worked alongside Marlene Berghini, who co-founded The Bridge with Rita Steinhagen. All three were members of the Sister’s of St. Joseph.
Known for their unwavering commitment to peace and social justice, these pioneers launched The Bridge in the 1970’s. Their legacy is significant. Since 1970, The Bridge has served over 40,000 children in crisis.
McDonald’s recollections working with young people mirrored the experiences of staff working at The Bridge today.
“We used to sit in the kitchen and play cards with the kids,” McDonald said. “That was a way to get them talking”.
Commenting that most kids stayed for a few days, as they do today, McDonald stressed that listening was the most important thing. “And, gradually, we felt our presence made a difference in each child’s life”.
Touring the Transitions program on The Bridge’s third floor, McDonald admired the colorful, multi-cultural mural in the living room. Her attention, however, was drawn to three teenage girls sitting in the room. They eyed the elder entering their space with suspicion.
With curiosity, McDonald approached each girl, asking each her name, and repeating each name. The introduction was brief but notable for the dignity and care McDonald took with each girl.
Later, Jane swapped stories with ten-year Bridge for Youth veteran, Shirley Carter. The conversation flowed easily as the two found much in common. Yet midstream, McDonald paused. A thought flickered across her face.
“Those children,” she said, recalling her tour just twenty minutes ago. “Each one of them had beauty.”
Perhaps that was McDonald’s spiritual antenna at work. Her attentiveness to the work of The Bridge did seem fine-tuned. That’s a lesson that all of us here at The Bridge will try to embrace each day.