Sometimes we face challenges that seem insurmountable. When we are in that situation, a feeling of dread and hopelessness can take over. Maybe you have never been there. I have been there.
I am a lucky (or blessed) man. I have been granted many reprieves from the depths of hopelessness. It's not ever really easy to overcome, but it can be done.
This Thanksgiving week I heard a news story that made my heart ache and filled me with gratitude.
In New York City, a new mother, unable to cope with being a single mom, with no resources, and another human being to care for, decided to take advantage of the City's safe haven law. The safe haven law allows for a parent (generally a mother) in distress to leave a newborn child under 30-days-old at specific locations, where we are all relatively certain the baby will receive care. Safe havens are hospitals, firehouses, churches, police stations, and the such. Many people have taken advantage of this legal method for escaping the personal hell in which they have found themselves.
This has prevented the horror stories of unwanted babies (or babies of women who are overwhelmed by her inability to care for her child) being "disposed of" in dumpsters and trash cans. In fact, the safe haven laws in the United States have almost completely eradicated that horror.
For whatever reasons, she could not handle being a mother, found a place where she knew her newborn baby would be safe (inside a church), and left him there.
She had made a series of decisions that we can all judge however we choose. In the context of the safe-haven law, however, she missed one important point. She was supposed to inform someone that the baby was in the church. She did not do this. Because of that failure, it became a criminal investigation.
The next day she returned to the church to make sure the baby had been found. She was subject to arrest for her failure to inform anyone of the baby's whereabouts. The Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown became involved in the investigation, and would decide how to handle the situation. He offers this:
The mother followed the spirit of New York’s ‘Safe Haven’ Law, which allows a parent to leave a child not older than 30 days with an appropriate person or in a suitable location where the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person of the child’s location. It appears that the mother, in this case, felt her newborn child would be found safely in the church and chose to place the baby in the manger because it was the warmest place in the church, and further she returned the following morning to make certain that the baby had been found. New York Times articleShe was NOT arrested and faces no criminal charges. THAT, my friends, is a public official using his intelligence and compassion to reach a conclusion that is best for all involved. He could have made this a grandstanding opportunity to further his career, but he didn't. He made the decision that best serves the child, the mother, the church, and all of society. That is what good people do.
Brooklyn-Queens Diocese spokeswoman Rocio Fidalgo, speaking on behalf of the church, offered:
We can’t imagine the desperation she must have gone through, but placing the baby in the manger where Jesus is born ... she wanted him to be close to Christ. We may never meet her, but our prayers are with her. Daily News ArticleDesperation. Let that word roll around in your mind and heart for a few seconds. That is the spirit of the safe-have law: help human beings survive a moment of desperation. We, as a society, acknowledge that there are situations that need to be handled with compassion, and this law has worked.
For that I am grateful.
In closing, I am happy and proud to say that there are good people in law enforcement, and we need more people like Queens D.A. Richard Brown in the law enforcement system.