Shakespeare and Foster Care

When our daughters were freshman, they got their first introduction to Shakespeare through Romeo and Juliet.  Their English teacher requested we purchase a specific version that is part of a series called No Fear Shakespeare. All that means is that on the left-hand side is the original text. On the right is a translation into modern language. Judging by the copyright date, they’ve apparently been doing this for a while. All I know is that when I was in High School, they clearly weren’t (Cliff and his excellent notes were our only saving grace back then).

Let me first acknowledge that some of you are purists and that the very idea of this is offensive to you . . . maybe a little like serving caviar with Cheetos. However, I, for one, think it’s fabulous (but then again, I’ve never tasted caviar — oh, and pass the Cheetos, please).

Here is one of Romeo’s passages in the original language:

“Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.”

And what in the world art thou saying, Romeo?

“Alas, one angry look from you would be worse than twenty of your relatives with swords. Just look at me kindly, and I’m invincible against their hatred.”

I love the beauty of the original words, but I also really like understanding stuff. Translation is a beautiful thing. It’s important not just because it leads to understanding, but it’s also important because it keeps people from casting good things aside. How many high school freshman have sworn off Shakespeare for a lifetime because it just seemed inaccessible? Having a good translator can make all the difference.

As foster care advocates in the context of the church community, this is one of our primary jobs. We are walking between the two different worlds of church and state. These are two worlds that, without translators, easily find ways to cast the other aside. Here are just a few key things foster care advocates in the church find themselves translating:

  • Helping the Church understand why child welfare professionals find the word “orphan” offensive when referring to kids in foster care
  • Helping the state understand how biblical concept of caring for “orphans” is a central driving force in the church community engaging in foster care even if kids are not technically orphans by the modern definition
  • Helping the church and state understand lingo and abbreviations inherent to the child welfare system and to the church respectively
  • Helping the Church understand how parenting kids from trauma may differ from parenting models traditionally utilized in a church context

If you’ve been doing this for a while, chances are that you are already bilingual and may not even realize it. If you are fairly new to foster care advocacy, welcome to your new role as a translator. Your labor of love will make a huge difference in the lives of many children.

In either case, I bid thee adieu.  (Goodbye.)

A version of this post previously appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to