Sunday, March 13, 2011

Formerly Homeless Families Engage...Will We?

I am a type A personality. I like for kids to behave and people to be respectful. If people say they're going to do something, I expect that they will follow through on their word. Sometimes those expectations work for me and sometimes I have to deal with a new understanding.

Since I've taken on the position as Director of Community Life at CityWalk@Akard, I have had the opportunity to connect with and get to know a lot of new people. As a part of the "community life" there at CityWalk, there are sometimes outings that people can sign up for and attend...most of which are geared toward adults.

As one of the ladies signed up recently, she explained she was taking her child. My initial, internal reaction was, "Oh goodness! This isn't a kid event!" I wanted to discourage her...well, not really her, I wanted to discourage her from taking her child. But I also thought about the fact that she's a single parent who wants to be a part of what's happening. Despite her overly active child, I had to adjust my thinking.

  • Sarah* follows through. If she signs up, she shows up.
  • Sarah engages. She is seeking out a community. These activities are part of our effort to help provide that community so who are we to exclude her from that?
  • Sarah wants to raise her child in the best way possible. What better way to demonstrate to her child how to get involved in every opportunity available??
I was talking to Sarah one day and she explained to me that she knows she has let her little boy get away with too much. She explained that she felt bad for what he's had to deal with in his short, three years of life. But she also understands that her actions and interaction with him hasn't necessarily helped him. She seized the first opportunity available at CityWalk just so she could provide a stable environment for her son...even though the only thing available was a very small (less that 1000 sq. ft), economy apartment. 

Every time I talk to her, I am always impressed at how she communicates with her son. When one of us asks him to do something or disciplines him in some way, she explains to him that everyone in CityWalk loves him and wants the best for him and so he has to mind all of us. She really believes in the "it-takes-a-village" concept...and she really believes in CityWalk.

When we're at the different outings, I see the frustration and disdain on other peoples' faces as she constantly tries to remind her child to be quiet (usually without much luck...or without much consequence to the child). As I watch peoples' faces and reactions, I realize we are not really a kid-friendly society. We (well, let me just speak for myself) get impatient with people who don't follow those hidden rules of not taking kids to certain events. 

But what happens when a single parent wants desperately to learn and be involved? Should we really expect her (or him) to stay isolated and out-of-sight? Who is that helping?? A poor, single parent doesn't have the luxury of hiring a babysitter for the day. Therefore, they are really only left with two choices. 1) Take the child with them, or 2) Stay at home. 

Despite my type A personality that likes for adult events to be nice and quiet, I want for Sarah to benefit from the knowledge and relationships that develop as a part of being involved. It is not my right to exclude her, nor is it my hope that she will exclude herself. What we have to offer her and what she has to offer us can only make us all better.

I am glad she is coming. I am thankful that she has been so willing to be as transparent as she has been in such a short time of knowing me. I have a lot to learn.

*Names have been changed

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