She is the woman sitting alone in the room of a clinic, waiting to hear the heartbeat of the baby inside of her belly.
She is the woman in the beat up car, singing along to the Frozen soundtrack for the hundredth time just to see those little faces smile.
She is the woman walking up a mountain with a bucket of water perched on her head.
She is the woman who fights to be at work, in the daycare pick-up line and at the 3rd grade spring concert all at the exact same time.
She is the woman who lies awake at night wondering how on earth she is going to pay for the braces on their teeth or the food in their bellies.
She is the woman who cries into her tin cup of coffee, in the early morning light, because it’s just so hard, and she is so tired.
She is the woman who would do absolutely anything for her child.
She is the woman I am called to live among, to learn from.
She is your sister.
She is you.
She is me.
She is the modern day widow, the single mother.
Every Thursday afternoon I stand in a room full of women who’s names I know and who’s stories I am just beginning to discover. I measure their swelling bellies and ask them to tell me what they have had to eat in the last 24 hours. I pray with them, I praise with them and my heart aches for them. I send them on their way with a kiss on each sweaty cheek and I hope against all hope that the next week would be kind to them. I study and organize their charts and I pray for hemoglobin levels to rise and blood pressures to fall, knowing that the vitamins I give them can only do so much to fight the hand that poverty has dealt.
The book of James commands that we care for orphans and widows and the church had taken these words and run to all the corners of the world to build orphanages for tiny defenseless children. There are a few who hit the “orphan jackpot” they are placed in one of the good ones, with gentle and loving caregivers, where they are fed, they go to school and they stay alive…sometimes. But the majority land in the hands of those who’s only goal is to exploit and steal and destroy and because they are in an instuition, without a mother to meet their needs, their tiny brains lose the ability to form connections with other human beings and they are beaten and they are raped… sometimes.
What if we got it wrong all along? What if, instead of pouring the millions of dollars a year into giving mothers a place to drop off their babies, we used those resources to make sure that mothers were enabled to care for their children, and the inevitable orphans of their own extended families and hometowns? What if we really, truly realized that the only difference between her and ourselves, is the country of our passports? What if we gave her the same options we would fight tooth and nail to give if she were your sister or daughter or best friend? What if, instead of funding orphanages on every corner, we poured support into programs that create jobs and provide healthcare to keep women alive in developing countries. What if people worked together to support a select few children’s homes that are held to the highest of standards of care? What if we valued their lives as much as we value those of “our own”? What if caring for the “widow” prevented the “orphan”?
Maybe she made a mistake, the most visible and easy to condemn kind.
Maybe she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maybe she fought and saved for years to have the courage and cash to leave the man who broke her heart and her bones.
Maybe she chose to become a mother, in whatever way was best for her and she works hard and she takes care of her babies and she is still so very much alone.
Maybe, she is more than her circumstances. Maybe her past doesn’t define her.
Maybe in her home, just like you in yours, she is simply “Mommy”.
Organizations working to preserve families in Haiti:
Footprints Of The Son