Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sleepless in Louisiana

It's going to be another of those weekends. After a full day's work in the office, I managed to get me and my dad on the road, headed toward southwest Louisiana by seven p.m. We got word yesterday morning that one of his three sisters has died of pneumonia and that the funeral is scheduled for tomorrow morning in a little town there called Church Point. My father has bad knees and cannot sit in the same position for an extended period of time so we decided to make a little over half the drive tonight to help him manage the pain. The drive back after the funeral tomorrow will be over five hours stretch breaks for him, so it will be a long day.

So I'm sitting in a Red Roof Inn in some little Louisiana town I missed the name of, typing on my iPad and planning to settle down for a couple of hours of serious reading before I have to turn the lights out. I'm about half way through We Were Not Orphans, an intriguing look at life in The Waco State Home, a facility run by the state of Texas for several decades. The home housed several hundred poor children at a time and it literally saved many of them from starvation. But the home had it's problems with sadistic teachers and "matrons" and it is heartbreaking to read the words of some of those who were raised there.

The question I'm left with is how to judge the right and wrong of a facility like this one. A lot of good was done for hundreds of children, and many of them consider living in the Waco State Home to have been the best thing that ever happened to them. A few, however, were victimized by sexual predators and sadists who worked at the home. Is it a simple matter of numbers or is all the good outweighed by the evil that seems to have occured so regularly there?


  1. You pose - on purpose, I suppose - a gut-wrenching question, Sam. The answer is, I think, to not *judge* the right and wrong in any final sense.

    Better, I think, to ask yourself, "What will I do differently as a result of now knowing this?"

    In other words, I think it's more valuable to judge the course of your actions.

    P.S. I'm sorry for your loss. I hope the trip delivers you and your Dad safely and that you find something worthwhile along the way.

  2. There are a lot of children who are abused and killed by their own relatives. I'd rather take the chance with a location where there could at least be some oversight and the kids were getting fed and schooled.

    I am sorry for your loss and for the uncomfortable travel conditions. You are a good son.c

  3. Sean, that's an excellent answer to the question. I'm now done with the book and knowing that this kind of thing is still going on in state "homes" all across the country makes me want to do something...wish I could focus on what that action should be. This is an excellent book - review next week sometime.

    Thanks for the condolences. Funerals are always sad, in one sense, but seeing my cousins again was a real treat. I miss the relationship we had when we were, yes, I found something very worthwhile on the trip.

  4. Factotum, that is what is so amazing about the 50 or so first person narratives in the book. The kids, especially those taken to the home during the Depression were actually better off than a lot of children who had real families. They had a better chance to be educated and definitely were better fed than many of the children on the outside.

    Thanks, too, for the kind words. We made the trip back in pretty good shape. My dad (he'll be 89 next month) was in such high sprits about seeing his other two sisters and lots of nieces and nephews that he forgot to complain about his knee. The mind is a funny thing...

  5. I'm sorry for your loss. You have my condolences. That is a pretty heavy read under the circumstances but it sounds like the sort of book that interests me, even if it is hard to read how cruel humans can be to each other.