Service as Joy

I recently made a career change, and during the interview I was asked what sparked my interest in the position. Without any hesitation, my answer was, “The word ‘support’ is in the title.” I then shared some of my story, which I hesitated to do because I don’t want to be seen as “playing the widow card” or making anyone feel sorry for any of my experiences. I shared that story, however, because there are countless stories exactly like mine that do not end well.

I know what it’s like to be a teenage mom because I was one.

I understand what it’s like to be on welfare because I have been.

I have had more than 2 dozen addresses in my life.

I have lived in government-subsidized housing.

I know what it’s like to have nothing in the pantry or refrigerator.

I understand the fear of having less than $50 in the bank and days before payday.

I know what it’s like to shop at thrift stores, not because it’s trendy, but because there isn’t another option.

I have experienced foreclosure.

I have been through bankruptcy.

I know what it means to have no health insurance when your husband finds a strange mole and you find a lump in your breast.

I know what it’s like to find groceries on your doorstep from people who know you’re in need, but care enough not to embarrass you.

I understand what it’s like to quit your job out of necessity, realize your income will be zero, and have a sense of dread that gnaws at you.

I know what it means to be a young widow and be fearful of the future.

During the course of my 42 years, I have known plenty and I have known want. In between some of the experiences listed above, I have also known much comfort. I was able to stay home with my children. In the earliest years I was a nanny and was able to take my kids with me to work. Later, I was able to stay home because we only needed one income. I had the privilege of being able to make the choice to homeschool my kids. I’ve driven luxury cars that were paid for with cash, and lived in large homes with rooms that were fully decorated, yet never used. While I’ve not traveled the world, I’ve been on a handful of memorable vacations to beautiful places where I’ve enjoyed marvelous experiences.

I am extremely grateful for every day of my life, even those that held the most difficult moments and experiences. Yes, I am even grateful for those that were so painful I still cry over them and wish with all my might that others do not have to feel the same pain and grief. As I have watched heartbreaking scenes of the last week, and as I have wept over what has unfolded, I am grateful for the pieces of my story that kept my heart tender and my mind open.

When I was asked that question in the interview about what piqued my interest in the job, the reason I answered as I did is that I know, without a doubt, that the reason my story keeps moving forward in a positive way, the reason I have not crumbled under the weight of what life has tossed my way, and possibly the reason that I have not experienced the worst of the worst is that I have always had an unbelievable amount of support. Sometimes that has been financial support, which is certainly wonderful and I am indebted to those who stepped in and helped at moments of financial crisis. But even more importantly, I have been aided by people who gave me physical and emotional support. When I’ve had no home, there was an open door. When I’ve been filled with uncertainty, there were open arms. I have discovered that we all need each other, whether we know plenty or want.

So, for the rest of my life, I will do whatever I can to support others. I will hold those who hurt. I will weep with those who mourn. I will feed those who are hungry. I will find ways to clothe and shelter those in need. I will do whatever I can to make life just a little better and a tiny bit brighter, without reservation and without judgment. My motivation comes from the tremendous gratitude I feel to those who have helped me, and I want to make sure I pass on the kindness, care, and compassion that was shown to me and to my family. My motivation also comes from believing it’s simply the right thing to do.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

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