This past week I witnessed an amazing outpouring of love and generosity toward a young woman and her children, who without warning, lost their husband and father. I don’t know anything about them or their family other than that they are close friends of someone I know. What I do know is that this broken-hearted family was, and is, surrounded by friends from all over the globe. Not only have they raised an enormous amount of money to help them rethink their futures, this incredible group of friends has loved them in the way a family should—never leaving them and ensuring them that they will not be walking forward alone. I have been blessed and inspired as this story continues to unfold.
As someone living as a single with virtually no family ties, I worry about my own adult daughter and how she will do when my time comes. She has no family to fall back on. I know I am not the only single parent who thinks about these things. We boomers think about it even more, especially if we have children who haven’t quite made it on their own yet and may still be living at home with us. The 2011 US Census reports that 27 percent of American children under 18 live with one parent of which 87 percent live with their mother. Another four percent do not live with parents of which 57 percent live with a grandparent. Additionally, the number of adults from 25 to 34 living at home has risen, and continues to rise.
I personally know of several single-parented families that are surviving without the benefit of a family support system. I am fortunate to a least have a sister who has hung in there and helped me when the rest of the family turned away from me. Others do not live near their family and are left feeling as if they have to do it all on their own. Although some have family support, they may carry the heavy load of children with special needs and they crave people who will understand and lift them up; somehow lightening the load. We, the single parent, worry about what might happen when the next shoe falls. Unmarried, divorced, or widow/widower, we all wonder how we will make it through the next crisis.
Single families, especially the ones who unexpectedly find themselves on their own, need the love and help of their community. That includes those now on their own without children at home to worry about. They need to know that if something disastrous or unexpected happens, there will be people who will join forces around them. I’m not talking just about someone dying; but what happens when someone becomes ill and can’t provide for themselves or their children? What happens when a child falls ill and everything else falls to the side? What happens when someone loses a job and lives in fear of becoming homeless? What happens when they are home-bound and depression is setting in? There are so many ways we can step forward and offer our time, and yes, even offer our money if it will help overcome the situation.
I talk a good bit about giving of our time. God has given us only so many minutes and hours in the day and only so many days in our lives; how we live those days measures who we are as compassionate people. Today I suggest that you look around you—look at the people closest to you. Do you see a single parent trying to raise their child on their own? Do you see someone who quietly carries a heavy burden on their own? Do you know a single living alone without family in the home or nearby? Are you a single who understands what they are going through and can offer encouragement? These are the people who fall under the radar of social programs and often live one-step-at-a-time.
What can we do as a community? How can we band together in our churches, our synagogues, our sports teams, our schools, and our workplaces to make a commitment to adopt and love these families? We don’t need another special program. You are what is needed. You are here to make a difference. You are here to make the calls and to rally behind these people. Start building these communities now before a critical event occurs. Become a part of a community of fun-loving and giving people that can make a tremendous difference in the peaceful as well as the restless times of another.
I know that there has been nothing more precious to me than the times my friends have come out of the woodwork and given of themselves to help me move forward. They became my family and I cherished all they did for us. I also know the joy in bringing a simple touch of care to someone. I know the sense of purpose that comes from stepping out of my comfort zone and walking along someone who feels alone. I know what it is like to become like family to another and in that act of kindness, to feel less alone myself. God has a way of filling in our own holes and gaps when we step forward and unselfishly give of ourselves. I pray you find an opportunity soon.
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman behold your son.’ And he said to this disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from then on this disciple took her into his home” John 19: 26-27