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Living and Hoping

I recently experienced a bout with depression and was gripped by the accompanying hopelessness. Despite what I knew to be true, my emotions usurped rational thought and dragged me down. With proper medication, good counsel, and time I believe that I am, finally, on the mend. Whew!

Over the past year I have had the privilege of getting to know many homeless women who have real physical reasons for depression. Many have been abandoned and abused. For others, family members have taken advantage and refused to help with bills and other responsibilities. Sudden and debilitating illnesses have robbed many women of their jobs and the resource to pay rent. Talk about depressing…

The Davis Center at Community Connections houses homeless women and provides transitional housing and rehabilitation to 80 women at a time. For up to two years women are assisted in financial planning, job-training, academic accreditation, counseling and medical care. I have been amazed as depressed and sometimes angry women find hope.

During our recent monthly “Women’s Empowerment” dinner we discussed how hope has two components: expectations and specific desires.

Expectations:

I was not surprised to discover that most of the women believed (when they were teenagers) that they could expect an easier life, happiness, and love. Those who were cared for by capable mothers or grandmothers took them for granted. Others grew up in abusive situations and believed that escape would produce freedom. In many ways my teenage expectations were similar.

Desires:

I have always possessed a deep desire to be loved. My friends at Community Connections are no different. We all desire to have a purpose. We want to be respected and understood. Unfortunately the way that I sought to fulfill that desire was in ways that hurt me. I abused and overmedicated my body to achieve “fame” in modeling. I still have a voice in my head that says, “If you were just thinner you would be happy.” We all have stupid voices in our head, don’t we?

Last night, as we sat in a big circle, I was enthralled to hear the many ways women have awakened to their need to silence such destructive voices. Their expectations have changed and they are now prepared for a life of self-determination, self-sacrifice, and hard work.

Their desires may not have changed fundamentally, but they are gaining wisdom in learning how to best achieve these goals.
One woman shared, “I know my mama loved me but she never treated me with dignity.”

The hope for these women is to get on their feet and live productive lives. They are learning to avoid the spiral of debt and poverty. Fortunately, the statistics show that the Davis Center produces long-term success. Most of these women will never face homelessness again! That’s great news.

Unfortunately I find that many of my desires are more selfish and actually elusive.
  I want to be a perfect size 8
  I want my face to be free from those unsightly lines and wrinkles
  I want to spend the rest of my days happily married to my husband
  I want my energy level to stay like it was in my 20s and I never want to be sick

  Obviously these desires are setting me up for dashed hopes.
After all, my expectations must be realistic. I am over 55 years old. These things happen!!!

So what is my hope?

Last night I learned from a beautiful young woman. She said, “My hope is that I will leave a legacy for my children… one of faith and hard work… one of hope and a future.”

I like that, don’t you?

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