Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

There is one group of people in our country that I feel are sorely overlooked and that is the working poor. Our government programs and even assistance from many non profits and churches is set up to cater to those who do nothing versus those who so something.

Let me give you an example:
You are a mother of 4, working as a housekeeper  cleaning hotel rooms, no car, trying to create a life for you and your kids. You bring in about $700 a month. A family member watches your baby for you so you can work. You live with your sister and her 5 children in a 3 bedroom apartment. You pool your resources so that you can survive. Your sister moves out one day while you are at work taking all of the furniture and leaving you with one day to get out.  You have no where to go. You walk down the street and swallow your pride as you knock on the door of a couple who have recently moved into the neighborhood. They have been loving on your kids and you're praying they can help in some way. You explain the situation and they immediately move into action and within 5 minutes you are moving your only belongings into their house while you figure out the next steps. Shelters aren't an option. No place wants to take a family with a teenage son. The few that will have a waiting list a mile long. The  couples friends cover a week at a hotel for your family so the kids can start school on time. Strangers are dropping off meals and school supplies and the couple shows up early the first day of school with breakfast and gets everyone to school on time. You spend a season moving from house to house sleeping on air mattresses in family members homes. No real place to call your own,  always feelings like a burden to someone. You pay your family members money each week to help out with bills but you and your kids are constantly made to feel like a burden.  All the while, the couple from your neighborhood is picking up your kids and taking them to church. Their friends start doing the same. They even make sure your kids are celebrated on their birthday and have what they need to live as normal of a life as possible. You wish you could do some of these things for your kids but the couple says "You can and you will but right now we want to partner with you and provide some support." You hate to ask for food or diapers but you need them.

There are food pantry programs during the day but when you work it' hard to get there and some are far away and by the time you catch a bus all the way there and back you have spent your entire day off getting one bag of groceries which you have to somehow manage to carry along with your baby's car seat because your family member doesn't watch the baby on your day off. Most places are 9-5 when it comes to providing assistance to you but with your schedule it leaves an almost impossible window of time to get there. As you walk several blocks home from the bus stop in the rain you see lots of people who just sit outside on their porch all day doing absolutely nothing yet qualifying for more assistance than you. In the midst of all of this, your oldest son gets in some trouble and is arrested. The couple that's been helping you shows up in court and talks to the probation officer about your son and the positive things he has been doing. After being locked up for a week, they release him and put this couple on his terms of probation. The couple takes you out to breakfast where they pour into you as a mom in transition. They come up with a plan and some goals. The man across the table says he wants to mentor your son and will pour into him and challenge him on a regular basis. A month later the woman takes you out to lunch to have a heart to heart. You tell her that you don't have any friends and you feel bad for always having to call on them. The woman looks you in the eye and says "I want to be your friend. I see you trying your hardest to provide a life for your family. You are doing a good job and we believe in you." As tears flow down your cheeks she goes on to talk about Jesus and community and caring for one another. She says there are other people praying as well and that you are in it together. She raves about your kids and even says she and her husband will be at their graduation someday. They are with you and you are not alone.

You finally scrimp and save up enough money to get a place of your own but it literally takes everything you have to put down the first months rent and then there are the utility deposits. The family member you have been staying with is furious when you tell them you can't pay them anything this week because you are trying to move into your own place. They don't care that you need a few more days you need to get your stuff and get out... Now. You call the only people you know to call and you hate to because you don't want to feel needy and you don't want to ask for one more thing of them. But you remember what they have said. They immediately come with an SUV and get you moved into the new place thanking God that its a holiday weekend and you still have water in the new place at least for a few days because you don't quite have the deposit for it and the gas. All you have is clothes and the air mattresses the couple bought you, but its home. The couple shows up later with groceries and pizza to celebrate the first night in your new home. They tell you that there are people all around he city who are working to help them furnish the apartment. That it' going to be ok. You celebrate your own space for 24 hours because you quickly realize that on your income you can't afford to pay the rent, utilities and feed your family. You have to invite your mom to move in because you need the extra income. While you don't want to repeat a cycle, you have to do what you have to do. However, this time you have plans. You have dreams. The couple has told you not to give up on being a CNA. The money is better and your kids need to see you follow your dreams. You believe you can do it. They believe you can do it and are committed to making it happen. They have other Christian adults pouring into each of your kids. For the first time in a long time you actually have hope. You are seeing Gods Word in action and so are your kids. You know that anything is possible with God and you are not alone.

This is a true story of a family we have been working with through the Dream Campaign.  I tell it not to point to us but to point to the power of God and the power of authentic community. Everything we do is because our supporters make it possible for us to live a life of availability. If you have given a dollar to us or said a prayer for The Dream campaign, these are the types of life changing stories you are a part of. It is a perspective on loving your neighbor and the question: how far are you willing to go? It is also to provoke thoughts on "the working poor" and what support we provide to those who spend every day trying their best to make enough only to find its not really enough. How can you choose compassion? What is God calling you to do?