The very nature of what I do is about extremes. The haves and have-nots, the joy and sadness, the lucky and very unlucky are intentionally linked by our organization, and sometimes it's hard to sort through those emotions. This past weekend was a perfect example of how that complexity is echoed in the lives of every mom.
We visited a residence for young mothers and their babies. The 26 moms living there each had their own struggles, and many were hardened by "the system," and saw us as "just another charity." Not everyone was happy to see us at first, and I understand that. It took some time to get them to trust me and see me as more than someone who takes a ceremonial photo and drops off clothes that nobody else wants. I wasn't going to let that be our reputation! I decided to turn our 17 bins of clothing into our first ever pop-up shop, so moms who'd never gotten the opportunity to go on a shopping spree for their babies could have that experience. They had free rein to pick whatever they wanted, free of charge, of course.
After helping a few moms pick out clothing and baby carriers, the room loosened up--you could actually feel it in the air. We talked babies and motherhood, and at times I felt like I was just talking to my mom friends. Before I knew it, moms were passing me their babies to hold while they shopped the inventory. I was really genuinely happy that they were happy.
There are some moms I just won't forget meeting. I think they touched my life more than I did theirs. One mom, who brought her 5 day old baby, was really special. She was so happy and positive and bright. I personally can't imagine being in that situation and having such a positive outlook. I looked at her and thought "how does she do it?" "would I have been like this?" I met another mom who was expecting, and had a toddler plus an older child from whom she was separated. I knew she was sad and her eyes filled up with tears when I told her that she's strong. There's nobody stronger than a mama bear. I felt her pain and wanted nothing more than to reunite her with her family. I truly hope she gets well.
Did I leave feeling like I solved all their problems? Of course not! I didn't. I felt good that I was able to give them an experience that they don't often get. I was happy to know that I was able to give them the material things that they and their babies need, and I was especially glad that to feel like I connected with some of the moms and give them encouragement because what they're doing is hard! It's hard to walk away knowing that I can't fix all their troubles. I know that statistically many of these moms and babies will continue to suffer. But, for that one morning, there was joy.