A single mom with three children and a two-week old grandbaby in the house came to see me recently. She was two months behind on rent and certain to face eviction. She had no job, no income, and nothing in the hopper on the jobs front. Understandably, all she was concerned about was getting her rent paid.
But our commitment at Grace and in Glenwood Family Ministries is to give greater help than mere band-aids. Paying her rent would ease the pressure for a moment, but then what? We had met a week prior, and I had given her a list of things to do, 3/4 of which were “big picture” items dealing with finding work, spiritual health, and giving back to the community. She returned having focused only on the 1/4 of finding someone to pay her rent and had come up empty even on that.
I found myself very frustrated with her. By ignoring the other parts of the list, she was no closer to long-term health than she was before, and now I felt pressured to help with this short-term need AND with the long-term aid as well. She had been a Certified Nursing Assistant and needed to renew her license by taking a class. The class and rent together would cost over $700, not a small chunk of change.
But we have been involved with her and her children for over 8 years, and I got the sense, through wise counsel, that we needed to help both with the short and long-term issues, and so I told her we were going to pay for both.
She began to weep and sob with thanks and relief, and part of me hated that I hadn’t just done this a week ago when we had first met, sparing her the worry that she had been through. I said to her, “There’s a bigger picture to your life.You are more than just your immediate physical needs.”
She looked at me through her tears and said, “Am I? AM I? Every day is such a struggle, and I can’t see beyond what needs to happen right now. I can’t see anything BUT needs.”
I think it was a “light bulb moment” for us both. She realized that she needed more help than simply rent payment. I realized that the poor aren’t choosing to ignore the big picture – many times they have no idea that it exists. My role in helping them, truly helping, is handling the short-term need which can free them to see the long-term goal.
I had her spend some time thinking about different areas of her life, where she wanted to go and how she would get there. I learned she dreamed of opening her own restaurant someday. And I think that she felt truly cared for, truly helped. She started CNA classes last week and attended a church near her home. She called to volunteer with our tutoring program. She was taking steps towards seeing the big picture. This is part of how we break cycles in families, changing generations.