Carina Cruz Benson

“I see an angel in the marble and I carve until I set it free”

– Michelangelo

We all come across many people in our life, some who help us and some who need our help. And in this day and age, it seems better to accept help or be self-sufficient and to be indifferent to those who are in need. It is easier to see people in need as rocks and not lift a finger to set an angel free. Or even easier to be a rock, unflinching in our resolve just to live for our family and ourselves.

With a work and acquire mindset and a job in corporate America that provided a corporate SUV, gasoline, travel and food allowance aside from compensation for my work time, I was comfortable. No need to change anything, I thought, even if I felt unfulfilled as a person. Then came the roll over accident and a stay at the ICU that made me realize all I have ever worked for was of naught if I had died during my accident.

And even after my accident, I lingered for sometime with my job for objective reasons and let the thought of quitting circle in my mind over and over again. Remain unfulfilled at a cushy job or do what I am truly passionate about. Finally, in 2013 I turned in my resignation and decided it was then or never. I wanted to set angels free, not in the sense that Michelangelo inspired but figuratively, to help children become the best they could be.

There is an angel in every child and in fact in every person. Once I met a young adult named Garette sitting on a corner of a laundromat. He had a beautiful face that was covered with grime and his tattered clothes covered an undernourished body. In talking to him, I learned he came from a broken family, used to be under the care of an uncle since early childhood, walked all the way from Phoenix to Las Vegas and hitched rides every now and then.

I gave him a list of shelters he could go to and he said it is more dangerous to stay there than in the streets. When asked if he was taking drugs, he replied he was but he was not addicted. It was then I saw needle marks on his left arm. When I asked if he was planning to work, he said he would soon.

Talking to Garette made me realize why there were so many young adults transitioning out of foster care who are still homeless and lost. Some are drug addicted or are felons, and worse, are in a dark state of depression and may end up as hardened criminals. I no longer see Garette where he used to hang out and although my hope is not lost that things may get better for him, I recognized that his wounds went deep into his early childhood.

Although it can be done, it is truly difficult to mend the lives of shattered men and women. It is much easier to teach children to be strong and resilient as their brains are rapidly developing. Resiliency can be acquired through spirituality. There is an angel in everyone but they need to be carved out. It takes work but it really doesn’t have to take a Michelangelo.