Ever made a mistake? A real whopper? A magnificent mess? I have. More often than I care to admit. But there’s one in particular that haunts me. It is hard to admit and has, sadly, hindered me from doing some good stuff. I dropped the ball and it backfired epically. And I’m going to tell you about it.
About two years ago I was volunteering at a local homeless hang out and met a family who tugged at my heart. Mom, dad, a sweet 2 year old boy, and his baby sister. I reached out and they accepted my offer to help. I bought diapers. I met them at the hospital when mom had a health scare and needed someone to watch the kids. I bought birthday gifts.
Before long, mom and dad lost custody of the kids, due in part to their unsuitable living situation. The state requires certain standards of living for its children and homelessness doesn’t meet the criteria. I still don’t know how the state got involved. Doesn’t really matter, except that it wasn’t me who involved them. I was FOR THIS FAMILY. I wanted them to succeed.
It was a strange relationship. I wanted to help, obviously. But I didn’t understand their lifestyle, clearly. I was pretty fuzzy on what “helping” them looked like. So, when they told me that all they lacked to get their kids back was a deposit on an apartment I (after consulting with my husband) wrote a check. And I petitioned my friends for donations to help them set up their new home. And we helped them move. And bought them groceries. And then I patted myself on the back and walked out of their lives.
What a nice, happy ending.
Mom had/has a serious drug addiction.
At a chance encounter last Christmas season I ran into the kids, along with a new baby, at an event for kids in foster care. Mom and dad were both in jail and the kids were being adopted. Their time in their new apartment was short lived. And probably not amazing.
In a really jacked up effort to help, I had really REALLY mucked things up. I had great intentions but missed the mark on what this family really needed. Friendship. Not a hero, just a friend. Someone to stick with them for the long haul, to be close enough to recognize that something was majorly amiss, to intervene on behalf of the kids involved. I dropped the ball. A big freaking ball.
And so, I’ve been gun-shy. I have a lot of irons in the fire right now and I just can’t be the kind of friend that I should be. Thus, I’ve given myself permission to do very little. If I can’t be ALL IN, why bother?
Because. Every little bit I can offer matters, if done properly.
I cannot pretend to come alongside someone and make their whole life better. But I can try to make this day better.
I cannot/should not buy houses and furnish them. But I can buy water and coffee and offer them.
I cannot appreciate enough the folks who are dedicating their lives to befriending the local homeless population. They are my heroes. They are doing it right.
I cannot allow a fantastic foul up to keep me from doing the good that I know I can do. And neither should you. Don’t allow your past mistakes to keep you from doing the good that you can do right now! Don’t be afraid to do something just because you might not get it exactly right. Don’t allow yourself to be frozen in fear because of your own fantastic foul up.