An Encounter with Humanity
A few months ago, I received the biggest compliment of my life. After inquiring about my long To-Do list and overwhelmed feelings, my fellow staff member simply listened and then thanked me for my human-ness.
I sat there looking stupidly at her, thinking, “That’s not something to be proud of,” as if my own humanity were a disease from which to run and hide. Are weakness and limitations beneficial and praiseworthy qualities? Since I’ve had some time to reflect on this, I now realize that my own humanity, as well as that of others, is something which I’ve had the privilege of encountering here at Maggie’s Place.
Permit me to provide you a few examples. (Note: names were changed for the purpose of privacy)
I will never forget when a mom told me how fear so paralyzed her that she couldn’t get out of a domestic violence situation until someone intervened, or how, when she was a child, Sally witnessed someone being shot over winning a card game. Another mom, Sandy, couldn’t seem to wiggle out of the grasp of addiction, but after we had several conversations together, she glimpsed for the first time that what she thought was true freedom (the ability to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want), was really just the road to further addiction, and she understood what a blessing accountability and structure could be for her. These women, many who have been in “survival mode” for a long time, have still had the courage and strength to protect the life of the child growing within them and to persevere and sacrifice day after day with no immediate, tangible reward. Their example has shown that although we are biologically unrelated, we can truly become “family” for one another. People from every background, age, and attitude, no matter what “front” they display, just want to be loved and can move beyond their past to a better future.
I have experienced that Divine Providence really does provide. Over the last two years, I have been overwhelmed many times by the generosity of the wider community. People have a beautiful way of going above and beyond in giving of their time, talent, and treasure when they know that someone is going through a difficult time, even when they personally are being hit hard with economic or emotional stress. It’s the little things that matter: a hug during a tough day, a thoughtful note, or chocolate that was brought over to sweeten up our staff meetings. Volunteers and donors have demonstrated that a little bit of care and concern for others can go a long way.
People have a beautiful way of going above and beyond in giving of their time, talent, and treasure when they know that someone is going through a difficult time, even when they personally are being hit hard with economic or emotional stress.
I’ve also discovered how to receive love and truth from those around me, and to develop a few life skills. Several moms have allowed me the enormous honor of witnessing one of the most beautiful moments, vulnerable times, and incredible bonding experiences in which one can ever participate during a lifetime: the birth of a human being. Moms and staff have taught me that preconceived ideas do not always translate into correct judgments, that poverty can be more than just a lack of material possessions, that keeping silent many times is best, and that to cry is not a weakness, but rather can be freeing and provide much healing. I can testify that it helps to laugh when you are frustrated, that I can change a tire and put up drywall compound by myself, and that one can squeeze fresh juice out of an endless supply of oranges, and there will still be more fruit on the tree! These moments have breathed life back into me when I’ve least expected.
To extend compassion, to stand in another’s shoes, to enter someone’s suffering out of personal choice and on purpose, is a blessing. I am grateful to have learned over these past two years that by God’s mercy I have been given much, and that I can contribute something despite of and because of my weaknesses and strengths, my capabilities and my inadequacies. Not only did this life-changing experience help me be more fully myself, but it also allowed me wonderful encounters with my own humanity and with that of others. It is truly a gift.