Hi All! I have been extremely remiss in my regular postings. I don't know if that is of any significance to y'all, but if you have been looking for my crazy musings, then I apologize. I have been cooking, but really the same boring stuff, so I haven't felt the need to share.
My actual topic today is about an experience I had tonight while volunteering for the shelter my church runs for homeless people. If you are now picturing alcoholic vagrants in shabby clothes, holding cardboard signs asking for money, shake out the Etch-a-Sketch in your brain and instead picture your neighbor, or maybe the nurse who helped you in the E.R., or maybe the mechanic who fixed the oil leak in your Sequioa, or maybe you (really, I have met all those people over the years).
Our shelter works with families that have fallen on hard times. I would say from my experience with them in the past five years, that they are predominately single mothers with multiple children, who have jobs, but still cannot make enough money to pay for housing. I am serious, people. These ladies work so hard, but they still can't afford to pay the rent and buy food, and clothing for their children. You all know how these darn kids grow faster than we can clothe them, right?
Well, of course, I have been one of those stay at home moms who gave up a career to be there for the children. The times when I have been most frustrated with the tedium of the job, I have thought to myself: if only I had a job I could escape to, I would feel much better about my situation. Yes, I admit it. I miss working in an office where I could go home and leave work at the office. Being a full time mom is a 24/7 job and it can be the very definition of exhausting.
Now, here's the part that you might think I would say that I saw these women trying to raise their children while being shuffled from church basement to church basement, and thought about how much easier I had it. And of course, you would be right, on one level. I mean, who couldn't? But here's what I saw tonight: Two mothers, who's children absolutely could not get along, forced to live with one another in a massively taxing and uncomforatble situation. One mother had an eight year old child and eighteen month old twins. The second mother had one two year old child. The girl twin and the two year old were literally at each other's throats all night. An interesting observation: yes, the mother of the twins was delighted to have us voluteers playing with her children while she enjoyed dinner. What mother of toddlers among us wouldn't have been? But, the mother of the one child was angry with the other mother and several times complained to me that "she doesn't watch her children."
Now, I saw the single child shoved that little girl several times and unreasonably demanded an area to himself, which his mother aided by calling us to remove the other children from his space.
The whole thing culminated in the eighteen month old girl biting the shover.
Justice? Well, of course, we can't let children mete out their own consequences. But there was a certain sense of fair play in that the older boy had been dishing it out all night and the girl, well, had had enough.
Now, my whole point in this rumination is to say that, no matter where you live and what your circumstance, as a parent, your job description is the same: teach your children to be upstanding citizens of the world, but also, keep them safe. I think what I learned tonight is that my job description is no different from any other mother's. I simply have (and I'm supremely grateful for) a tremendously more secure platform from which to carry out my job. I guess I thought that somehow, the day to day minutae of child rearing would not apply to the homeless. That they would be too involved in survival to fall victim to the everyday conflicts of our priviledged offspring. That, to be precise, is ridiculous. These children are even more prone than those who have official houses and rooms and their own toys, to be possessive when they find something they love. Duh.
I don't want to go all political, but, I think these folks might be some of the '47%' that Mr. Romney was referring to. They are working. They are trying desperately to teach their children good values. I thank God that my family and the people of the churches that run the shelter system are able to help them with a meal, a bed, and some relief from their difficult lives. If any of you have the opportunity to help out a family in need, I strongly encourage it. You never know what kind of a return that investment will make in our future.