I also woke up thinking about all of the women that stayed at the Interfaith Works emergency women's shelter this past winter who are mothers. Some of them raised children as single mothers in extreme poverty and adverse conditions to become the adults that they are today. These mothers sacrificed so much of themselves to make sure that their children had a different life then they had. Some mothers have been separated from their children for various, painful reasons and have not connected with them for many years. Some mothers lost their children because of an abusive partner. For those women, Mother's Day stings and reminds them of all that can be lost in the cycle of poverty.
A beautiful opinion piece was published in today's newspaper and the author, a resident of Quixote Village, writes about his experience living homeless. In his piece he talks about the linkage between adverse childhood experiences, homelessness and addiction. In the work that I do with the street community, it seemed very fitting that this piece was published on Mother's Day. Almost every single woman that visited the emergency shelter came from hardship in her childhood. Stories of abuse, addiction and pain are nearly universal amongst the street community. He writes;
"Every individual who is now or has been homeless has a unique tale to tell; there is no common denominator. There are, however, certain scenarios that, in my experience, tend to contribute to the condition: childhood trauma, mental illness, drug addiction, legal troubles, economic problems and family disintegration. True and thorough consideration of these root causes could and certainly should fill volumes elsewhere."
Ongoing conversations around important issues like homelessness and drug abuse in our city often make these issues feel so huge and complicated. I always hear people ask, "What can we do to stop this?". It is hard to know the best way forward when it comes to such serious matters that feel very scary for so many of us. What we do know, is that adverse childhood experiences are one of the most significant risk factors associated with addiction and homelessness.
A hugely significant thing that each of us can do everyday to combat drug use, addiction and homelessness in our community is spend quality time with the kids in our lives--our own children, our friends' children, our nieces and nephews and the neighborhood kids. We can notice when a kid needs positive adult attention and give it to them. We can encourage our kids to keep an eye out for the underdog in their class and bring them home to get to know them better. When we know the kids in our lives we can see early warning signs of the cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction and support the kids in our community early on with non-judgmental love and respect.
Additionally, we can honor the mothers in our lives everyday and thank them for what they have done to get us to this point. Thank you mom for being my friend, for not giving up on me and for always being willing to learn how to move through this life with me. Thank you to all the moms in our community. You have a unique and vital role to play in the prosperity of our community and I thank you for being such strong forces of positive change in our world!
Happy Mother's Day!