As a counselor in community mental health, I remember my first home visit to a six year old child whom the school reported was depressed and needed mental health services. We sat on the floor of his little bedroom, colored in coloring books and talked together. His parents and grandparents were gathered around the television in the living room with loud voices from the “Jerry Springer Show” drifting into our little space. When it was time to leave the youngster said, “Well, thanks a lot for coming to see me……………but my parents need you a lot more than I do!”
My career has been spent helping parents in our community find their way out of poverty. I travel to the welfare office, see a lobby full of bright-eyed children, waiting with their folks. The welfare offices have become like untouchable zones, leprosy colonies. Our welfare office is sitting in the middle of dozens of car dealers. There isn’t a neighborhood or community in sight. I keep stuffed animals in the trunk of my car and sometimes run and get one when I see an unhappy child. Why do I do this? I guess it helps me feel less helpless. I really should have canned food, warm clothes and bus tokens in my trunk as well. Now that would be helpful.
It was so easy when I could just go to church every Sunday and feel that the answers were there for me. I made a career out of being a good church-goer, volunteering and giving my time. I was the new and improved church lady, the one that greeted the new folks, sang in the choir and sat on committees. Church doesn’t work for me anymore. My questions are too big to be contained to a Sunday morning and I’ve grown tired of the easy answers about salvation and heaven. I guess my biggest reason is shame. I am ashamed with the life of privilege I have in the face of so much poverty and brokenness in our society and world.
Why don’t the church folks start hanging out at the welfare offices? It makes so much sense but that would make Sunday mornings a little more complicated. Don’t you think?
As a very average 41 year old white woman, I am learning that I have a voice. More importantly, I’m learning how not to use it. Instead, I am learning that listening is the greatest teacher of all. I believe very simply that helping others can change the world.
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