Jessica whispered, "Are you still there?" Kristin whispered back into the darkness, "I'm here. Sleep now sweetheart."
Kristin sat by the door of the room of the abused girl for hours so she'd feel safe, even though there was a night guard. The abused girl knew Kristin would not allow harm to come to her.
The next night, a tiny might of a girl took the opportunity while Kristin was breaking up a fight with two other girls to grab a belt, sneak into the bathroom, attach the belt around her neck and onto the hook on the back of the door. Kristin ran to the screams of the girl's best friend and then slid under the small space under the stall and ripped the belt from the already blue girl's neck.
Falling into a heap, the girl and Kristin wept together as the girl landed into Kristin's lap. Kristin spent her 24th birthday in the emergency room with the sweet child comforting her and making her promise to never do that again.
The next week, Kristin found herself underneath a bed trying to coax a traumatized girl out. She stayed for hours talking to her throughout the night, comforting her. Other girls begged Kristin to have nighttime prayers with them for it was only then that they slept without nightmares.
As she left for graduate school, she felt as if she betrayed the girls at that facility only to find herself at another one in Virginia. The 3-year-old AIDS child nestled in her neck daily and she was seriously considering adopting the wee one. He had been left on a door step,. He felt safe with her. So did everyone.
There's a "safe haven" when you are with someone so very close to God. It's inexplainable, but "Oh, so sweet." She drove a "dually van" and laughed at her prissy self headed up the "hollers" and the ghettos of Virginia to pick up clients for their therapy sessions. A program was designed for "broken ones" trying to keep them out of detention centers like the one she worked at in West Virginia where a 15-year-old boy picked her up and threw her and her 6-foot, 5-inch bodyguard came to her rescue right before the teen's fist hit her face. She was proud she landed on her feet. If you knew her, you know she rarely did that.
Although she was bruised, bitten and battered, she loved the residents anyway. She took pictures of her wounds and sent them to me laughing. I deleted them instantly as I couldn't bare the sight of my girl in pain. The children adored her and apologized when their rage came upon her, and she loved them unconditionally. She soon became the "training model" for the agency and they even videotaped her working to show new employees.
When she was offered a management position earlier in the year, she did not even hesitant nor ask about compensation. She simply declined, and stated, "that would take me away from the kids."
When Kristin was a baby, I took her into the ghettos of Chattanooga on my hip and worked amongst the kids there after I was widowed. When we moved to West Virginia, she and I took a van route into the "hollers" to pick up bus kids for church on Sunday. We visited the kids all day on Saturdays, bought slushies, had picnics, and made memories working with the "broken ones." She stated over and over this past year how those experiences prepared her for what she was doing with her life for God. However, the student became the teacher as I watched in amazement at my fearless daughter trudging, loving, embracing and tirelessly caring for the broken ones. As most know, before her death, she was preparing to work with human trafficking and going to Thailand in December to pull girls out of that lifestyle, offering them Christ, and a hope for a better and brighter future.
Kristin is gone, but her legacy can live on as we go throughout the day to day grind, looking, noticing, caring, loving and taking the time for the broken ones. Getting involved in lives and investing our lives in the lives of others will bring us peace we've never had before. "Losing our lives for the lives of others" forgetting about the "what's in it for me" mentality, and trudging along, caring for broken ones in our own families and beyond brings a peace and allows God to do through us what I've heard referred to as being " Jesus with skin on."
Kristin's life was one of personal pain that most know nothing about. Without going into detail, she knew what it was to watch abuse, feel helpless, experience abuse, fight for the underdog, and to be an outcast in a place where she should have been enveloped in love and compassion. Her words right before she went to heaven about these events to me: "If I'd never been abused, I would've never felt these kids' pain. If we'd never been an outcast, how could we had known what an outcast felt like?" She was writing a letter of forgiveness to someone who had abused her the week she died. She had no bitterness, she had dealt with that as a teen. She allowed those things that seemed to be against her to be for the furtherance of her way. She allowed God to take the pain, and give her beauty. She was my kid, but honestly, I've never been around anyone who radiated such beauty, love, joy, compassion, and love for her Savior and people as Kristin. I want to be like her when I grow up. May her life not have been in vain, but let us now "love the broken ones" as she did: one person at a time.
The Talley trio came out with a song that depicts her life, and should inspire ours to love the broken ones.
(Kimberly Morgan, is co-founder with husband, Jamie, of "Kristin's Hope," a ministry to aid the broken ones. Also, a counselor at Cornerstone Christian Counseling Center, reopening soon across from the railroad depot in the Bialek office building.)