It’s been a particularly rough week at school. Today I learned one of my students is homeless and it definitely struck a chord with me. I felt horrible after I learned this because first thing this morning s/he and I had an incident and had I known I would have handled it completely differently. S/he had brought some coloring sheets and math pages to school. As I was helping him/her get things turned in for the morning and get him/her set I told him/her I would take them and hold onto them for him/her. S/he got upset and the situation escalated.
Later I couldn’t help but feel bad because I too know what it’s like to not know where you are going to be the next day, week or month. I remember shortly after the girl’s dad left feeling completely hopeless. We were living in a home that his family owned, and while they willingly let us stay, I knew it wouldn’t be forever and new plans would have to be made. On a Catholic teacher’s salary and as a newly single mom, I knew having my own place would be next to impossible. My options were slim and with debt and attorneys fees, the stress it imposed on me and the girls was felt daily. Then adding the fact that I was let go from my teaching position in a free-falling work force added even more emotional stress and turmoil.
I always remember my girls having a difficult time letting go of things that were theirs. Even today the smallest things are kept and secreted away in hiding places. And now I understand, not knowing what is temporary or what is permanent can be stressful on an adult, let alone a child.
This past year I have often become frustrated because others say it is hard to understand where children from low-income are coming from and the situations they often encounter. I don’t know if it’s because I too have been in many difficult situations in my life, as well as other people I have known, but I always think to myself that not understanding others mindset or culture can cross over into all socio-economic statuses or family situations. Very few of us take the time to actually get to know people and their struggles, and it’s not always our fault. Many of us don’t like to openly share our hardships or stories. We think it makes us weak in others eyes. But I think it makes us strong, and better able to understand where others are coming from.
Someone once told me a story of a person suffering from cancer and how she would always ask the other person how they were doing. The person would say to her, “Why are you asking about me? You are going through one of the hardest struggles in life there is?” But the person would always tell her that EVERYONE is going through a struggle in their lives. It matters because it is happening to you.
I think so many of our misunderstandings and miscommunications could be refocused if we all took this viewpoint towards others lives. It’s not a race issue, or an economic issue, it a human issue. We all struggle, we all fight our own daily battles. The importance is showing kindness to others and to recognize that we don’t know or understand completely what another person is going through. The importance is taking into account the feeling and mindset of others, and custom tailoring our interactions to make them meaningful and thoughtful for others.
So there are a few things I want to take from this: one, always be cognizant of where others are coming from, you never know what battle they are fighting. Two, be brave and tell your story. We ALL have stories, and they should be told. They are powerful and are a part of us and have made us who we are. And lastly, keep an open mind. Don’t be condescending or critical of others. We all have different perspective on life. No one is the same. That is they beauty of our world. Sometimes it’s good just to stop and watch what is going on around you, and to recognize where you can help: be it a kind word, a helping hand, or encouragement to others to keep going. Keep your chin up friends, and know while no one can know your specific struggle, we have all been there and we are all cheering you on.