She is sitting in the lobby of the family emergency homeless shelter where I work. Mid-thirties. Tired looking.
She glances at me as I walk in. I smile. She smiles back and then looks down.
In front of her, a dark blue baby carrier sits on the floor, a pink blanket draped over it.
I walk over, sit down beside her and ask if I can see her baby.
She smiles the smile all mothers give when showing off their infants and lifts the cover.
Inside, a tiny infant lays sleeping. She is beautiful and perfect and so peaceful looking.
I want to cry.
She is fifteen days old.
I tell the woman how beautiful her baby girl is. She smiles at me and whispers a quiet, ‘thank you.’
There are so many questions I want to ask this woman. So much I want to say. But I do not have the right to badger her or pry into her life.
I wish her well and leave.
She haunts me.
This mother and her baby daughter. Sitting silently in the lobby of an emergency homeless shelter.
She haunts me in that place where the heaviness of poverty oozes out like a damp fog rising up from the marshes lining a pond. Dank and cloying, it soaks up the air around it, drowning out all sounds. All hope.
That place where I want only to hold the children close and find safe haven for their mothers.
That place where I want to heal the world and change the trajectory of lives seeped in trauma and despair.
Where I want to rail at politicians and policy-makers to stop talking about ‘what needs to get done’ and get doing it. Now. Right away.
Precious little lives are at stake and we are setting them up for more trauma, more despair, more loss of hope and possibility and dreams.
And I do none of these things.
I continue on my way, doing what I know I can do to raise awareness, raise our consciousness of our capacity to create a better world, a more peaceful place for all the children and all the mothers and fathers too.
I continue on my way doing the things I do best.
And still, she haunts me.
What more can I do?
One of the things I can do is ensure that people know how they can make a difference. I work in the homelessness serving sector because it’s where I feel ‘at home’. The cause resonates within me.
For many, working in this sector isn’t possible.
Giving is receiving.
We can each give what we can to ensure the agencies at the front-line are able to support young mothers and their infant baby’s like the one I met the other day.
Every penny makes a difference.
Every penny counts.
If you have any extra coins you’d like to donate, please think about giving to Claire’s Campaign. Until noon tomorrow, your donation will be matched by Gary Nissen who contributed $250,000 matching dollars, Karen Zutter $100,000, the Hutchinson Family $50,000 and Cole Harris and Centron, $50,000.
Your difference will add up to a big difference in the lives of the children, mothers and fathers who come to Inn from the Cold in search of a safe way home.