On Friday I joined a team of parents from our local school community to help clean up a house. In this house lives a single mum with her four children, aged 17, 8, 6 and 3.
We’d been urged by the school parent who took it upon herself to coordinate the “Operation” to “leave our judgements at the front door”.
To describe the house as a mess is a chronic understatement. It was a job that needed a team response – and a big team, at that.
I could read the responses on people’s faces, but heard no judgemental words. The team just quietly and efficiently got down to the massive job at hand, room by room. On each parent’s face was a determination to turning the house into a home. Over the course of the day around up to 30 families directly contributed, while more still had made donations of goods and cash – adding much needed energy to the occasion.
The mum, her 17 year old and her 3 year old bravely participated in the clean up. Letting us in had not been easy. It had taken months of persuasion by the organiser. The 17 year old stayed in his room for a couple of hours before eventually coming downstairs and participating.
I wasn’t there at the day’s end, but those who were said the responses of the mum and children to their new home was priceless. For the first time, everyone in the family had beds to sleep in. All who took part got a huge buzz from the experience, too. It’s a cliche, but it’s good to give, and giving with others has a particular strength. I know I’ll always feel a connection with those who were there, too.
Intergenerational poverty lies at the root of this story. Breaking the cycle won’t be easy, and those who participated in yesterday’s cleanup are under no illusions that “everything has changed”. It’s our collective hope, however, that the effort provides this family with a fresh start, as well as the knowledge that they are cared for by others in their community.
A door between those in our community who “have” and those who don’t have much has also been opened. Let’s hope more of us can find a meeting place somewhere in the middle for the sake of the children – and for those in our school community in similar situations – but for the sake of all of us, really.