My Mother was a social worker. She had a soft heart and the deepest brown eyes that helped countless people with her sweet compassionate gaze. She was a really good listener and had a way to make the complicated things seem easy. My mother taught me that we should help others when they are down. She showed me that you give a hand to those in need; you pull them up when they fall.
When I had my children I had to learn to let them fall.
I believed in teaching them to rely on themselves and pull themselves up so they would learn how to get along and have tools to deal and be able to take their own steps. OH MY GOD do those three girls of mine take their own steps.
Being a helper can be tricky, sometimes you help a friend through the long process. Getting a new job , navigating a marriage, or moving away, only to feel alone and maybe a little sad when they move forward and don’t need your hand anymore.
I struggle in my programs to know when to stop helping. When can I not help anymore? When can I simply not help enough? These are big questions I need to deal with
It isn’t only about my hand or me personally helping. It is also about the bandwidth of my organization. Do I take the limited funds and resources I have and spend them on one kid, or the other? How do I prioritize? Who needs more help? Is it the one who is in solitude?
The one on the outs with the drunken Mom? Is it the one who needs to hold my hand when her tattoos are removed? Or the one who has been incarcerated again? Who do I reach out for help? Can I dare admit that I too -need help?
I decide examine my help giving, I make some rules -
I think, OK, I will focus on the girls in the program that are in Jail now and I will help the girls who come to my program on the outs. I will draw the line when they go back in to jail. As I drew that line, I knew it would be erased like writing in the sand when the tide comes in. How can I possibly not help someone who has gone through my program and then continued with us on the outs?
And indeed that tide came in and all my lines were erased.
Last year I met a girl who was incarcerated She must have done something bad because she was in for a long time. She did my program in the spring and was still there when I came back in the fall , so she did the program again. She got released the day before the second presentation after being incarcerated close to 18 months. She was 16 when I met her. She got out of jail and came to my program. I cried when I saw her. I hugged and held her like she was mine.
This one caught my heart, a smart tall beautiful young woman she could easily be my child. She is determined, has a social conscious she wants to give back. She is stubborn as hell, but my god she was and is so incredibly broken angry and lost.
I watched her fight so hard to blend back in. How in the hell could she do that after being away for so long? 18 months in teenage years is a life time and more. She has dreams this girl of mine She has so much to be, have and do.
I held her hand. I talked to her. I tried to help as hard as I could –but I saw her falling, and as tight as I held her hand, I couldn’t pull her out. And then I was told she is locked up again.
I lost a little piece of my heart when I found out. I cannot get involved when they go back to jail. I had decided. Advot cannot be involved We can’t do anything about this; this is not in our mission statement. We use theatre for transformation. That is what we do.
The water came rushing in, my lines in the sand were erased without a trace
I sent a email. I made a phone call. I found out where she was. I found my girl.
I drove downtown planning to see her but alas I am not allowed in, there is paperwork to be done. She was told I will be coming she is happy. I am happy to help – can’t wait to see her.
It is 9pm on the weekend, I walk out of the movie theatre with my kids. There is a text on my phone – I have made rules about that too – Someone needs my help-she is here, needs to get to there . She has no one to call, no one to pick her up, she is sorry to bother me- I text back, I send an uber to get her and take her – The uber is SUPER expensive –of course it is, who the hell wants to go to those neighborhoods?
Was this right, was it ok?|
I talk to the girl, I told her that I am happy she called but I will not be able to do that again –I know in my heart I did the right thing – I left her with some ideas and options of how what to do if when this happens again.
I think of a post a friend recently put on Facebook:
Always leave people better than you found them.
Hug the hurt, kiss the broken, befriend the lost, love the lonely.
I would add, help, help as often and as much as you possibly can.
Have lines in the sand, because they are important, but do not be afraid to let the water wash them away.