Good morning to the best people on earth! Some of you may know that I have the honor of serving on the Board of Directors of Acres of Diamonds. AOD is a local non-profit transitional home for homeless women and their children. Last weekend, at our spring fundraising event, our executive director, Jen Paddock gave the following message. It was so powerful and well written, I wanted to share it with all of you. I think you will be able to relate with these stories, because homelessness, at it’s core, is about broken relationships. And that, is just a part of being human.
“At Acres we serve a different population than the one you see on the street corner. We serve women and children who are predominantly lifelong victims of domestic violence, most were raised in homes with addiction, crime and certainly significant poverty. They are sleeping in cars, crashing on friends’ couches, or bouncing between shelters.
It is pretty typical for us to think “we can fix this homeless person’s problems if we give them a job, or some money. Even a house.” But you may be surprised to learn that these things won’t cut it. Not on their own. The need something more.
I want to give you an opportunity to try to put yourself in the shoes of a typical woman we serve.
Imagine if growing up, you never felt safe. Your home was always changing, your parents were sometimes loving and other times angry and neglectful. It became pretty clear, pretty fast that no one really was going to look out for you. Which really made you angry and it made you sad. Eventually your dad started hitting your mom, and he hit you too. Mainly when he was drunk… which you didn’t really understand, but you knew sometimes he just went crazy. Mom wasn’t much help. She just let it happen. At some point dad just sort of disappeared. As much as he scared you, you miss him and wonder why he left. What did you do wrong? Why didn’t he love you? It must be your fault. So your anger, sadness and self doubt grew. You knew in order to survive you would have to figure out life for yourself. No one could tell you what to do. Why would you let them? They can’t be relied on and they can hurt you when you least expect it.
So let’s say you start to do stuff that makes you feel happy for a little while. And for an added bonus it makes the adults in your life mad. Maybe you discover the buzz that comes with alcohol, maybe sex, maybe drugs. Something that makes you feel OK for a while. Not mad. Not sad. Confident even, for moments. OR maybe you found someone like your dad… who said he loved you, but hurts you a lot. You don’t feel safe, but it does feel familiar. Feels maybe like what you deserve. Since you clearly aren’t worthy of love. Or someone would have fought for you.
This goes on for a while… and then you get pregnant. A part of you REALLY wants to make a different life for your child. But you can’t even begin to think of HOW.
You look around and you see other people with families, homes, grandparents who care, jobs, education… and you feel like you just aren’t the same. You are uniquely messed up. You got a raw deal, and you don’t have the first clue how to change it. You know you have made some really bad decisions. And you feel like you don’t deserve a chance. But you keep thinking about your baby. And what will you do?
Lots of people have advice for you. They tell you to stop doing drugs… to stop having sex… to get a job… to be nice. But how would you find the strength to do that? And what will make you feel safe and happy if you let those things go? Even for a moment?
What would it take to break free? A house? Some money? Classes?
All of these things are good… but when you put yourself in these shoes, can you see that not one of them is enough? Not if the foundation for your life is broken.
Here’s the thing about homelessness. It isn’t the problem. A house isn’t enough if the person inside is broken.
There is a tearing down and a building up. Tearing down of the old ways that didn’t work and a building up of something new.
Tearing Down is painful. Giving up the old destructive way of living is hard.
At Acres we believe that if we can walk with our families through healing and restoration, they can end up not only being able to put a roof over their own heads… they can fill it with a life that is completely different than the one they had before. A life filled with love, joy, forgiveness, peace, self control. The life they were created for.
Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. HE has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.“
This is what we do – this is what Jesus does through His church. This is why we exist. It’s exciting to watch new life begin. To see something new begin to form on a new foundation. This is why we do what we do.”
I wanted you to have a chance to read Jen Paddock’s words because each of us can relate to this human condition of suffering, rejection, getting to the end of ourselves and starting again. We all have felt the “tearing down and building up” process in our lives. We know what it’s like to lose, to fail, and to be hurt. We know how it feels to recover from something devastating. And we also know how God is able to bring us back stronger. I hope by reading this message you are able to find and share a bit more grace with yourself, and more connection with the people around you.