Tag Archives: good

A Little Girl Named Marie

My first client as a professional counselor was a little girl named Marie. She was three-

 Jeffery in 1986
Jeffery in 1986

and-a-half years old. She was non-verbal and had not spoken a word since she was put into foster care. Both she and her six-year-old sister were being treated for gonorrhea. Both of their parents were in jail.

That was the fall of 1981. I was twenty-nine years old. I was a trained volunteer for The Center Against Sexual Assault. I had been taking regular shifts answering the 24-hour hotline..

Based on my undergraduate work as a research assistant and strong statistics background, the agency hired me as a data analyst for four hours per week at five dollars per hour.

Let me be clear.

This was not the work I planned on doing forever. I figured that if I could learn some counseling skills with that agency’s clientele, then I could probably handle just about any counseling situation that would come up in life.

My real goal was to get my Ph.D., go into Organizational Psychology, and make big bucks doing corporate work, solving interpersonal and group problems, helping big business function more efficiently.

Secondly, and more deeply important . . .

I thought this sexual assault organization might hold some insights or answers into my nagging dissatisfaction with my religious upbringing. I thought that if there was a God, and I was asking that question at that time in my life, then surely there would be something to discover in this fringe element of the counseling profession.

A few weeks after starting the job, a veteran therapist there, who knew I was in the Masters of Counseling Program, asked me if I would like to help her with the children’s play-therapy group.

I said that I would like to do that.

The therapist explained that the half-dozen children in the group were pre-school to second grade. There were two sisters just starting the group, ages 3-1/2 and 6. The foster parents of these two girls were very involved in the kids’ therapy and formed a good supportive family.

The lead therapist asked me to pay special attention to the littlest girl. She was going to need a lot of help. The other children we making progress at a reasonable pace.

Over those first three weeks I used what I learned in Early Childhood Development to build trust with Marie, making periodic eye contact, smiling, using a gentle voice, encouraging her to draw pictures and make choices. Session four, she was smiling back and engaging in some of the projects the other children were involved in. Then late in that session, there was a group sing along, and out of the blue, Marie joined in.

The first words I heard from Marie were in her singing a joyful sound. From there she grew by leaps and bounds.

The thing that drove the lesson home for me was a chance meeting two weeks later at a street fair in downtown Tempe. On a crowded sidewalk on a Saturday morning, I heard a little voice calling from behind me somewhere. I stopped and turned around, the crowd parted like the Red Sea. The little girl named Marie was running up the sidewalk calling out, “Mr. Kookendall, ( She had trouble pronouncing my name Kirkendall) Mr. Kookendall, Mr. Kookendall!” Her foster parents and sister were walking hand-in-hand behind her smiling at having surprised me.

I knelt down and greeted Marie. She gave me an appropriate hug. While I knelt at eye-to-eye level with Marie, we all talked for a while. Then I watched them walk away together Marie waving as she looked back.

My life changed that day forever.

Something Godly had happened, and I was a part of it.

I could not . . . I could not . . . I could not turn away.

For me, no work in the world could be more precious.

I was right. I worked saving children for 20 years.

It was this time of year thirty-four years ago that I met that little girl named Marie. I imagine her now in her late thirties, and I wish I could send her a letter.

Dear Marie,

Thank you . . where ever you are. . . Thank you Marie.

I pray that you are blessed with healthy children,

healthy grandchildren,

Jeffery in 2015
Jeffery in 2015

and that we both periodically pause

in our busy lives

to sing out

a joyful sound.

 

Forever,

Mr. Kookendall

A Spiritual Goose

I stepped out on the front porch this morning and heard a wonderful sound. A flock of Flying GooseCanada geese, flying in formation, called out as they passed over my humble Northern-Arizona long-house. I smiled of course. I am always touched and uplifted by wildlife. Somehow they give me hope that the beauty of mother nature will endure beyond mankind’s greed and violence.

I was reminded of an experience five, six years ago about this time of year when I was worried about finances and any number of things. I was driving my vintage Chevy short-bed pickup out the dirt road from Apache Wells to the highway on my way to work. Another Canada flock, maybe some of the recent flock’s relatives, were flying unusually low in the same direction I was driving.

As I took a bend in the washed out rocky road, our paths became much closer and parallel. For that relatively smooth stretch of road we kept pace with each other. I had my window down and leaned my head out to feel wind in my face like a blissful hound dog.  To me, it seemed their honking was just for my benefit. I looked the leader in the eye, and I am sure they were urging me to fly on faithfully into the future.

I also remember a goose encounter in the middle of one of my high school football games. We were under the lights on a near-freezing Friday night and getting ready on defense for our opponent’s next play. That was when my dear friend and team captain for that game, Jim The Hangman, called for the team’s attention. As ten of us all turned in unison and looked, we saw Hangman’s arm in the air and his finger pointed to the sky. The moment freeze-framed for me. The steam from our hard breathing poured through our face masks as we all looked to the night sky on cue. Perhaps the crowd thought we were praying.

The honking was distinct, and our entire team smiled as we recognized what it was. Then us tough guys all laughed at realizing what we were simultaneously sharing in the middle of that game. For that precious moment, we were all country boys tickled by mother nature and our own teenage comaraderie.

Good goose memories.

So today, in spite of all national economic indicators, in spite of all the horrendous world-wide challenges, I have just a bit more optimism and wonder for the days ahead, and I would like to pass some of that along to others.

Let us marvel in a wildlife moment together.Canada goose close up

Here is a little spiritual goose for you.

Honk, honk, honk, honk, . . honk!.
.
Respectfully,

Jeffery Kirkendall

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Click here to view some more magical wildlife moments.

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