Paige lowered her microphone. She had practiced for weeks. But now that the last chord faded into the large crowd, the fears and voices from her past made her heart sink instead of soar.
The crowd rose to their feet as she walked from the church’s stage. Baptist Children’s Homes president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell was there to greet her. She immediately apologized to him. Instead of tears of joy, tears of embarrassment flowed down her cheek.
“It was the worst I’d ever done,” she said. Blackwell looked her in the eyes and said, “Stop it right there.”
He told her she did a good job and asked her to say it too: “I did a good job.” “Again,” he said. And she repeated, “I did a good job.”
Blackwell’s encouragement and affirmation were like salve applied to soothe a wound.
Before coming to Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH), the 18-year-old had been bullied.
“People made fun of me,” she confides. “My home life, the way I looked, it didn’t matter. People judged me. It was hard.”
Growing beyond the hardships of being raised in a home where both parents used and old drugs was at times insurmountable. Paige recalls the burden of being their caregiver as a young girl. Cooking and cleaning was her responsibility most days. Instead of coming home from school to a healthy snack, chatter about her day, and the promise of a good dinner, she walked in, placed her book bag in her room, and became a parent to her parents.
“It was never enough,” Paige remembers. “After my dad died, things got worse. My mom’s addiction got worse. It seemed the more I did, the more my mom pushed me away. It was like she was rejecting me.”
Last year, Paige called the Department of Social Services herself. She felt she had nowhere else to turn. She wanted them to help her mother, but they were determined to help Paige.
“They tricked me,” she grins now, telling her story. “I knew about Broyhill Home. We had discussed it, and I refused to go.”
Paige was not happy when the car in which she was riding drove up to the Broyhill driveway. “I must have looked like I had a storm cloud above my head. I was angry, but that changed quickly.”
At first, Paige was leery about living in a cottage with only girls. She feared their judgment. “It wasn’t fair to the other girls, but I was sure the ‘girl drama’ would be just too much.”
Her fears were only fears. They fell away as loving cottage parents wrapped emotional and physical arms around her. She was able to be a child and experience others who cared for her and met her needs. The drama was minimal. The judgment was even less. Hope began to grow in her heart.
In her past life, Paige had fallen behind in school. The former “A” student had become truant in her sophomore year and some of her junior year. Now, at Broyhill Home, she is able to focus on catching up. An accelerated program proves to be the answer to keep her on track to graduate with her class.
“Focusing on education is important to me,” Paige says. “I’ve seen what it’s like to have no options. Being around drugs makes a person want a better life.”
Out from beneath the shadow of living at home, Paige says she can put her needs before her family’s. “I can look at things and ask, ‘What’s best for me?’”
After graduating high school in May, Paige plans to attend community college and then transfer to a university to study criminal justice. “I’ve always wanted to be a detective.”
These days, Paige is part of BCH’s Transitional Living program. The program helps residents ages 16 to 21 prepare for independence. She works at a local pizza parlor and is saving her money.
“The love and security I’ve known in the last year is greater than I experienced in all my life before coming to Broyhill Home,” Paige asserts.
The most important change in Paige’s life occurred last summer. As part of the youth group from Dellwood Baptist Church in Waynesville, she attended youth summer camp at Fort Caswell.
“We were attending worship times, and it became clear that I needed to be right with God,” Paige says. “I rededicated my life to Jesus and I see everything so differently.”
Paige says that much of the anxiety that she experienced over the years has lessened. She no longer feels that everyone is out to get her, to be critical of her, or to hurt her. Trusting God for her future and resting in the assurance that He is ever present “makes all the difference.”
“I’ve always believed in God,” she says. “Even in the worst time, I know He was always there – the bad just got in the way.”
Paige’s mom is doing better and is working hard to overcome her addiction.
“BCH is life-changing,” Paige affirms. “I’ve begun to see the good in me. I’m growing in my faith and learning so much. The difference is stark. No child should have to grow up like I grew up.”
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