A Reflection from the Frontlines...
Kathryn was living the American Dream. She had a good job as a nurse, her husband was an accountant. Together they shared a lovely home with two nice vehicles, two golden retrievers and one cherished little boy named Ben who they both loved dearly. I met Kathryn sometime after her life took a turn - after her little boy was diagnosed with brain cancer, after the visits to St. Jude Hospital, after making friends with all the other mothers in the cancer wing, after watching helplessly and crying endlessly as most of their children died, after her husband divorced her, after her precious little boy passed away, after the depression stubbornly refused to let her out of bed, after her mother said, “pull yourself together and get back to work! Quit feeling sorry for yourself!”, after the house was foreclosed and she had lived in her car for a week.
Kathryn ended up at New Life Center because some strangers cared enough to make some phone calls. She later compared herself to Blanche DuBois of the Golden Girls.
“Without the kindness of strangers, I wouldn’t have made it. I would not have been strong enough to go on.”
She made that statement after admitting to New Life Center staff that she was suicidal, after going voluntarily to the hospital for two weeks, after trusting medication that didn’t seem to help at first, after a new haircut that made her smile, after the support of other women who spoke with one voice - “We are here for you when YOU are ready,” after it started to feel good to be needed again, after beginning to volunteer at the shelter’s front desk, after helping out in the kitchen brought up memories that hurt, after learning that it’s okay to remember, to hurt, to cry, and to do it all over again, after asking staff for help with her resume, after going for a couple interviews and landing her first job in years, after staying at New Life Center long enough to accumulate a nest egg so she could sustain herself again, after finding her own apartment and moving back to her own life... The one where she belongs.
Many women like Kathryn find shelter, support, and community, along with physical and mental health advocacy, job readiness training, and housing placement each year at New Life Center. Sometimes, no matter how hard we work to secure our future, in spite of our good intentions and the safety nets we put in place to make sure we don’t fall, many of us will find ourselves in need of the kindness of strangers and a temporary place to call home, like New Life Center.
*names in these stories have been changed to ensure confidentiality