It wasn’t that I didn’t know that there was a need, I just hadn’t explored in any depth how I could contribute to it. Several years ago now; on a non – descript day, I had a random conversation that provided me with some revelation into the life/day of a single mom.
It was quite by accident that I found myself seated in my favorite Starbucks, sipping my favorite coffee engaged in a conversation with a stranger. Ok, so the part about being in Starbucks wasn’t at all an accident. I had just sat down at the only empty table when a woman asked if she could join me. As it was a busy Starbucks and my table was the only one left with another empty seat, I gestured and said, “Of course!” The woman introduced herself as Jeannie and so began a conversation that would awaken and help launch one of the greatest passions I hadn’t known was inside of me.
She admitted that this 30 min she allowed herself to sit and sip coffee while her daughter was at dance was her one guilty pleasure she allowed herself each week. Intrigued that she only allowed for one guilty pleasure a week, I inquired as to, “Why?” I spent the next 20 min listening to a schedule that makes mine pale in comparison. She shared about her own demanding work commitment, then talked of her 3 children and their involvement in various community sports programs, church events, weekly neighborhood play dates and school music concerts. Intimated that she was NEVER caught up on house cleaning and laundry was a task they had to do often as “family time”. She had recently signed up for an extended education class at work, but was having to rethink her availability to participate given everything else that was pressing on her already tight schedule. That revelation came to her the day before when she had to miss the very first class to take her young son to the Dr. for an ear infection. It saddened her because the possibility of a college education had for years been more a dream than an attainable reality.
At some point, my mind began wandering and I found myself looking AT this young woman. Really looking at her. She was dressed in a professional manner, hair coiffed and make up on. But, she was tired. She had a hint of dark that underlined her eyes and she absently rolled her head from time to time in an effort to work out her neck muscles as she spoke. Her hand gestures and body movements were slow. I realized that I only noticed this on careful observation. Her bright eyes, easy conversation and never yielding smile covered up what lied beneath. This mom was exhausted yet her resolve to keep going, motivated by those she loved, empowered and strengthened her. She had gone on to share that she was parenting alone; something she never would have thought would happen to her, but that her children were her greatest accomplishment and that all of the AMAZING inside of them deserved a home that was full of joy, honesty, perseverance and hope. Though at times she felt incredibly alone and scared; experienced moments of not knowing how they would make ends meet, she chose to believe tomorrow would always be better. She shared that it was important to her that her kids see that they never had to be stopped by the circumstances of life, but could contribute to it by lending a hand to others and offering encouraging words to those that needed it. Our conversation ended with her asking me if I had any good recipes that were quick, cheap and healthy. Jeannie had signed up to bring a meal to a family at church.
I realized that night that I’m surrounded by single parents. I can’t pay their rent. I can’t cover childcare. I don’t have the means to pay their car insurance or buy them a car. I can’t produce the perfect job that pays them what their worth, or create a magical second parent. But, I CAN create an event and bring awareness that lasts longer than 30min. and that offers more than one guilty pleasure! I CAN take the time to let them know that people care. I CAN gather others and together we CAN create an environment and gather resources and train. I CAN be a person who listens and chooses to act on love.
The Single Moms of Hope foundation has held it’s annual Christmas party for 5 years now. It’s a time spent loving the single moms in our area with a meal, entertainment, presents and empowering teaching. Next month we are excited to be launching an addition to the foundation in creating a quarterly mentorship night. I’m so thrilled to partner with others to bring resources, ideas and training to the single parents around me! Life is not easy, but it’s made easier alongside others who care and share!