Amy Beth Gardner became the foster parent of two sisters in the fall of 2014. At the time, Bridgett was 5 and Breonna, 9, and the Tennessee-Based mom was understandably looking forward to Halloween. But every time she mentioned the holiday, both kids seemed frozen in fear.
“I finally asked the girls if they had ever experienced Halloween before coming to live with us and was horrified by their answer,” wrote Gardner in a post that went viral after it was shared on the Love What Matters Facebook page on Thursday, October 27. “They took turns telling me about how they had once been given candy for Halloween only to have an adult take the candy and eat it in front of them while making them watch. When the girls began to cry, the adult handed them the brown paper wrappers that had been holding the chocolate peanut butter cups and forced them to eat the empty wrappers — a cruel way to give the girls a literal taste of what they were missing out on that Halloween evening.”
With that in mind, Gardner devised a plan to help win their trust. When Bridgett and Breonna came home from trick or-treating, she gave them two plastic bags and a black marker and instructed them to count their pieces of candy.
"My youngest daughter was five years old when she came to us via foster care. As we approached our first Halloween…
“When they finished counting, I helped them label their bags with the precise number of pieces of candy inside and, each time they would eat a piece of candy, I helped them relabel their bags,” she explained. “For weeks after Halloween, despite our assurances that we would not eat their candy, the girls asked if they could recount the pieces before going to bed. I would sit and count their candy with them night after night, earning their trust one lollipop at a time.”
That was three years ago and Gardner and her husband Paul have since adopted Breonna and Bridgett.
“Last night, as I was cleaning up our kitchen after dinner, I noticed my youngest daughter rooting around in the pantry . . . she approached me with a bag of candy she had collected while at a recent Halloween event,” wrote Gardner. “She had wrapped the bag in a piece of paper and it was clear she was presenting it to me as a gift. As I pulled the piece of paper off the bag, I saw these words scrawled in her sweet third grade handwriting: ‘Mom, I want to give you a taste of how much love I have for you by giving you my candy.’”
Gardner noted that Bridgett didn’t select her “least favorite candies” or pick only one or two pieces to give. She filled a whole full bag of her favorites.
“You have gifts to offer, to,” Gardner concluded. “But, like my daughter and her candy, I’m almost certain that your most valuable gift is connected to deeply rooted pain in your life. You and I have the opportunity daily to to make the choice to take the terrible things that have happened to us and turn them into gifts to offer this hurting world.”
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