I remember having a neighbor who was a single mom of a couple teen aged kids. I could feel the stress without even knowing her because I was a single mom with five kids in years gone by. It is not an easy position to hold in this world. Single mothers get battered by society a great deal. People don’t always know this because we don’t always talk about it. I know I didn’t talk about it too much because I did not want to be judged for mistakes I knew I made and times I knew I fell short. Life was hard enough without any added judgement stress. It’s a struggle. Anyway, the neighbor I am speaking of was obviously in a struggle all of the time and I know most of us could hear her struggle from across the street and down the block. Her lights were on from early in the morning until late at night and I wondered if this woman ever slept at all.
I also heard the neighborhood speculations, criticism, judgements, and scorn that people placed upon her. I felt bad to hear about it, and even worse, that I did not have the courage at the time to do something that might have helped her. I often watched her with her children rushing them into the car, yelling for them to hurry up or they would be late, or sometimes warning them to do something or some consequence was going to occur. I heard over and over from fellow neighbors what an abusive person she was and how horrible it must be for her children.
Not long ago in Texas there was an incident where a bunch of teens were throwing stones at police officers because of outrage concerning a recent racial issue. Our local news station broadcasted a woman who had recognized her son in the crowd, I think attempting to throw rocks at police officers. The reporter and camera swung over to this “mad mama” just in time to catch her grabbing her son by the scruff of the collar, screaming and yelling at him, threatening him ultimate punishment and pushing him along to get him home. Anyone watching this scenario knew that young man was going to catch holy heck the moment he got home! The praise that went out regarding that mom was massive! The feeling was that there would be one less young man that society was going to have to worry about, either now or later on in life, because his mama made sure his discipline was fast and strict. She won the admiration of many. Oh there were scoffers too, but mostly admiration.
Here’s the question…
I had to wonder what the difference was between that mom who went to physically grab her son and the neighbor woman I had who basically was doing the same thing. Before I go further, I want to say, that in no way shape or form do I ever want to imply that abuse of another human being, especially a child, is alright. What I do want to say, is that we do not know or understand what is going on in another families situation. We don’t know what single mothers are going through and we do not know what is going on with the children or teens merely by speculation. The Bible tells us that we “know in part”. This means every situation, when it comes to people, has hidden things just like God has hidden mysteries. We can never properly discern a distant situation and say we know all things about it. We can not even discern all things close to us and say we know everything. People have hidden things in their hearts and only God alone knows those hidden things.
We have wounds, scars, issues, confusion, and more. So, how can we not have compassion on those who obviously are struggling? Women who are mothers and have to care for their children alone are already scarred by the things she has had to suffer that caused her to be a single mother. She also carries scars from the things that society also will cause her to suffer just trying to get through every passing day and make it to the next. Single mothers are brave human beings. We get up earlier than everyone else because we are the ones who get everyone started. We go to bed later because we are the ones who will make sure things are safe for everyone to lay down to rest. We prepare for the next day, create strategy for the future of our children, and fight the continual battles that come at us from every single direction. We work harder than anyone can imagine with very little recognition along the way. Then the even harder part is we do it fighting the rest of the world all the way.
I wonder if anyone thought of my past neighbor as a hero? I wonder if anyone ever thought of me as a hero? I did not even know that I was or that I am. I do now.
Ladies, part of being powerful is remembering to empower each other by acceptance, assistance, and understanding. Granted, these days when we offer a struggling single mother assistance we might get our head chewed off. I think it can be expected. After all, look how society probably has judged and made it hard for her. I know, because I remember the neighbor families who talked about the woman I lived near. I also know because I heard the whispers that went around about myself from neighbors when I was in that position. If we ever want to see women surpass the pressures we go through in this life, we have to learn to not press one another down. Bottom line, we have to see ourselves in each other, because we are one another. Our situations might not all be the same but we all have one. We were made by God with the same job to do and we were also meant to help one another while the men went to battle the forces and feed the village in centuries past.
Think about how much easier life can be if we choose willingly to lift one another up, help each other succeed, and give understanding to one another in our struggles. Can you imagine a world that much easier? I know I can. A thought to ponder….
Rev. Jenine Marie Howry
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