The Christmas song “Silent Night” describes a newborn baby asleep in a world suddenly stopped in its busy tracks to welcome him, all peaceful and beautiful. There is a loving family to hold him, a small community gathering to celebrate his birth, a quiet stillness unbroken even by the trampling of sheep or the baying of a tired donkey. All is calm. All is bright.
A scene this peaceful could seem impossible to many of the children we work with. Some of them can’t remember ever experiencing a “Silent Night.”
What does night mean to a child who is being trafficked or exploited? It could mean a lot of things, but it probably doesn’t mean “silence” or “peace.” At any rate, there’s a reason so many of the survivors in our care describe their past as “the night,” “that darkness.”
I sometimes wonder whether the moment described in “Silent Night” has anything to offer to today’s wounded world — whether the song is relevant at all to people who are suffering. What difference does one snowglobe-esque scene make in this world where so few know peace? Can it stave off any darkness or pain? Perhaps the song is just a relic of happier times, written by people who didn’t know what it was like to pass a night in terror.
Other times, though, I’m struck by the magic that is taking place in the moment of the hymn. The night beyond the baby and his family is still dark, the world still the same mixed bag of pain and goodness as before. But this, I think, is the power of the scene: a little circle of love in the middle of it all, strong and bright enough to keep the chaos and the violence of the adult world at bay.
At Love146, we know we can’t end injustice in a child’s life all at once. What we can do is wrap the protective arms of love around them, one night at a time.
On your first night in our safe homes, after dinner and brushing teeth, a nurse helps you get into bed with clean sheets and a stuffed animal. The world outside will not get in here. Tonight, this love is enough to keep you safe. Your body may be weak, hurting, full of fear and tension, even suffering with injuries or infection. But the bed is soft. Nightmares may come, like before. But before long, other dreams will come, too: dreams about the beach we visit, the playground at your new school, the vegetable garden at the Round Home.
We can turn on a nightlight if you want, but know that this home is safe enough to let your eyes close. Listen: There is quiet in this room — no shouting, no cursing, no one hurting you while you’re trying to curl up and get some rest. No one calling you mean names, no fighting in the next room. Just another child breathing, soft and even, in the bunk below you. The crickets singing through the window. The hum of a fan. Breeze. Your mind echoing with the last words you heard: “Good night, little one. Have sweet dreams.”
Sleep in heavenly peace.