Objectively, it’s not enough. Not enough resources to help every child we come across. Not enough influence to help every struggling family stay together. Not enough foresight to always do the exact right thing at the exact right time to prevent something bad from happening.
Sometimes we are part of something momentous and we are privileged to see the fruits of our labor. A young mother who we hadn’t heard from in years called us out of the blue. She had just signed mortgage papers on her first home and she said she felt compelled to tell us that we had made the difference for her. Back when her child was enrolled in The Play House West and they were living in a shelter, she had just managed to find an apartment and to scrape together the first month’s rent and security deposit when her purse was stolen. In a panic, she came to us and we found a way to get the money she needed. That, she said, was the turning point for her and her family.
Dramatic events such as these, while wonderful and affirming, are in sharp contrast to the every day, the slow and steady (or not so steady) unromantic work we do. We provide a safety net for children and families. We are a grounding force, offering resources, consistency, and stability. For most families, we get to see children grow, and parents take incremental steps to improve their lives. For others though, for all our continuous efforts, we are witnesses to patterns of dysfunction that seem to constantly loop families back to places of deep insecurity.
That might inspire an image of Sisyphus, that tragic Greek figure ever straining to roll that rock up the mountain, ever faltering, futility itself. But I don’t think he’s meant to take that rock to the summit. He’s preparing the ground, using the forces of gravity and time to smooth the path ahead for others to make their way. It is slow, painstaking, important work.
The fact is that once they leave us, we don’t often get to see where families go. We don’t know, we can’t know, the full impact we’ve had. And that’s true for everyone. We are all threads making up the tapestries of other people’s lives. Even though we can’t see the full picture, the end result, we must acknowledge that each of us plays an important role and do right by that knowledge.
We can’t do everything. We must do something. Let's do something good.