Tia wore many hats at Maggie’s Place. She has left us for graduate school and her next adventures. She recently shared her thoughts with us.
“Once, I stepped off a plane into the unapologetic heat of June in Phoenix. Responding to an unmistakable draw to the charity called Maggie’s Place, I imagined a quiet life sharing a home with mothers and their newborns, with women pregnant and no where else to turn, with volunteers whose hearts were burning with similar expectations.
Further, I imagined that, during these three months of service, I could come to understand the reality of poverty and motherhood. If indeed this model worked, my pragmatic mind reasoned, let’s replicate it a hundred times over!
What took only days to realize, living in a home of hospitality, was that my ambitious and idealistic account of the world failed to recognized human individuality. Of the unique ways in which each of us is broken, how we suffer, and receive love.
How the women I lived with had heretofore battled adversities I was spared. Abuse, neglect, addictions, crime, violence, mental illness. Interrupted education, employer exploitation, dangerous homes. The infinite creativity of human suffering.
I confess that even after I committed to staying for a year and managing a home, I did not know how to face this suffering. I marveled at other volunteers who worked with abandon, because rather than throwing themselves headlong into tasks, they cherished each mother and each child. They stood where their feet were at that moment. They allowed themselves to be pierced by suffering, to remain in it with her, without flinching.
Coming to terms with the unpredictability of our moms’ lives and my naivety (what street smarts had I?) I trusted in divine providence by necessity. I made many mistakes. And yet every day, there was joy. We laughed in our exhaustion, teased each other after tears were spent, and would do anything, anything, to see the babies smile. And as I prayed and worked in the homes, I began to move with more real joy and true sorrow than I had known in a lifetime.
A year later, I transitioned into roles with our Development and then Recruitment teams, stepping away from the intensity of living in the homes to share our work with the community and to assist in the ongoing support provided to hundreds of women and children who had once called Maggie’s Place home. I’ve now said goodbye to this community, this blessed community, to embark on the next adventure God calls me to.
Maggie’s Place taught me that in order to love truly, you must love without expectation. Without desire that your tenderness will be returned. Without assuming that your words of guidance will be taken to heart. Without feeling that you are owed anything for giving yourself away.
That the only way to love is to be present. In the joys. In the annoyances. In the banality. In the chaos. In the humanity.
It would take more than both of my hands to count the women who’ve said to me explicitly, ‘My baby is the reason I’m alive.’ The power of a mother’s love can overcome the worst of addictions, the most improbable of circumstances.
Maggie’s Place taught me that in the resilience of woman, you can behold the strength of the One who made her.
The truth is, as the wise have long known, there is no solution to poverty. It is a web of interconnected issues drawn into greater complexity by the fact, that as was mentioned before, there is infinite creativity in human suffering. At the core of human suffering is not economic hardship. But rather, a form of relational poverty. One that feeds off our loneliness and distance and tells us, that no matter what happens or what we do, we can never, ever be enough.
And the only way to solve that poverty of spirit, is to love. To look into each other’s eyes, without flinching at the worst of what we find and respond,
“‘I’m not going anywhere. You are enough.”‘
Thank you sweet Tia. All good things.