I am settling into a routine that includes seeing abject poverty and homelessness and dependency every day and knowing that I cannot help everyone. I have several observations about the population that I am working with:
First, a sense of helplessness and dependency is very pervasive. Today for instance, a woman was looking up job opportunities and phone numbers were not included on the webpage. She was complaining about this, and I told her to look in the phone book. She said that she did not want to, and I replied that I did not want to either. Eventually, she ended up finding the numbers on her own.
Next, irresponsibility is rampant. We received a grant for bus passes, and so distributed them to several hundred women. It is curious to note how many women have lost them in the week that they have had them. Now they want more. Also, we see alot of women who wait to find food or diapers or something else until they are out of whatever item. Then they become desperate, suddenly their problem should urgently become our problem. One of our mottos at work is "We are not responsible for your poor planning. We can't fix your life."
Finally, people lack information. People are not aware of life skills, family planning, poor choices...the list goes on. It is amazing how much we take for granted. The number of life skills that my family taught me is so amazing, and I cannot imagine not having had that skill base.
I find myself attempting to emulate Grace in my life. I have to be patient, more patient that I have ever been before. I have to continually give these women the benefit of the doubt, day after day. I have to listen to their stories without judging. I have to encourage them to take responsibility and initiative, while still being caring. There is a tight line to walk between being firm and being unkind. All I know is that I cannot do it without prayer.