Imagine you are in your early 30’s. You’ve got three kids, and you rent a room in someone else’s apartment for all four of you. You don’t have a job. You didn’t finish high school. You’re pretty much on your own in every way and you feel so trapped and so alone and so overwhelmed. You’ve recently been talking to a friend who is involved in a program that is making her very happy. You’ve seen the changes for yourself. She seems calmer, more on top of things, enjoying her kids, happy…what’s up? She tells you about this place where she has found a home away from home and for the first time in her life is feeling like maybe there’s some hope for a brighter future. She urges you to check it out, but you’re pretty sure it wouldn’t work for you. Why start something else you won’t finish?
She keeps at you and you finally give in and go to Mother’s Club with her. You have no idea how much your life is going to change as you simply walk through the door. Almost immediately you are greeted and introduced to others. There’s chatter and coffee and someone else is watching the kids…you could get used to this. As you sit down, you look around the room and see several other mothers – all of them smiling and chatting. You stay quiet. And then the discussion for the day starts…they’re talking about helping your children with their self-esteem. Interesting questions and conversation and then the facilitator says, “But the reality is, ladies, that if you don’t value yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself, it will be difficult to teach your children how to do it.” It grows quiet around the table and everyone is looking at their hands in their laps. Finally someone breaks the silence with a stifled sob and the flood gates open. You don’t say much, but you are fascinated by how open and trusting these women are with each other. By the end of the session, several are talking about a new Strong Families Institute cohort that is starting up with some spaces available. Your friend nudges you, “You ought to talk to them. It would be so good for you.” She introduces you to the woman taking appointments and before you know it, you’re set to talk to someone about it tomorrow afternoon. Now what are you going to do?
Fast forward several months. You are sitting in the final quarter of the Strong Families Institute. My Safe Harbor has now become your home away from home and for the first time in your life, you’re feeling like there is hope for a brighter future for yourself and for your children. The thought of starting the program eight months ago scared you to death. You had never finished anything and what if you didn’t finish this? Another failure.
But here you are! Graduation is just around the corner. You’ve already taken the beautiful invitations to your family and friends and you’re wondering what you will do without the weekly oasis of this group. At this session, someone is telling you about the monthly Alumni Potlucks and the many ways you can stay involved. WOW! You realize you can stay and keep growing!
Graduation is here! You did finish. You paid your way through it. You made changes in your life. Those changes have changed your family. You have moved from “I never finish anything,” to “I finished this!!” Your kids are watching. Your friends are cheering. A whole host of people whom you have never met is there cheering, too, because they’ve been praying for you and paying to help you succeed. You know you are stronger. You know you are wiser. You know you have the tools to problem solve and to dream big dreams for yourself and for your children. You look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is this woman?” It’s YOU! The NEW you! The REAL you! The YOU that is going to walk across that platform all dressed up with all eyes on you as you get your diploma and join the ranks of SFI Alumni. And Heaven is watching as your family and friends and so many others say, “CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! Well done! We can’t wait to see where you go from here!!”
This was the experience for 15 women who proudly walked across the stage earlier this month. If you have never experienced a graduation, you need to. Our next graduation is August 25th at 3:00 pm at Anaheim First Christian Church. Be a part of blessing the women who have worked so hard to change their lives and the lives of their families.
–Becky Ahlberg, MSH Executive Director