On Tuesday, I was one of many panelists for an AEA (area education agency) Lunch and Learn here in Johnston. The topic was Diverse Family Structures. To the right of me at the table was another adoptive mom, a caucasion woman married to an African American man and she has African American step children, a lesbian woman who has a wife and two adopted sons, a woman who worked for the Fatherhood initiative, an African American single dad who is raising his 4 year old son and 1 year old nephew, and an African American woman who works for Children and Families of Iowa and she adopted a caucasion daughter. The five people to the left me of me at the table have probably forever changed my life. On my immediate left was a single woman in her early 20s trying to raise two or three kids. Next to hear was an 18 year old girl who is pregnant and all alone. Further down the table was a 16 year old boy who was going to be a daddy. His girlfriend is 15. And next to him was a teenage girl who has dropped out of school so she can raise her brothers two kids. The woman responsible for bringing these four people had a story of her own that I am not going to get into.
We were there to talk about the stuggles and joys of having a diverse family structure. We were also asked what support and services we found useful and how educators can help and add more support. However, much more was going on in that room. God was at work and His Spirit was moving. I sensed this and I started to pay attention. The man who is a single father made a connection with the boy that was going to be a daddy. They are going to meet and I think good things will happen.
The discussion was quite heavy at times so to lighten things up a bit, I shared that one of my struggles with Josie is her hair! I got some smiles and nods of affirmation. Afterwards, somebody came up to me and offered to buy some hair product that she uses and to come to my house and show me how to care for Josie's hair and skin. If Josie's hair is long enough she is going to braid it! I made a new friend that I know I wouldn't have made if I didn't have Josie!
The girl that was two chairs down from me - she is pregnant and all alone. I felt led to talk to her afterwards. I asked her name. I asked her where she went to school. Nothing major, but I talked with her. Her responses were short, she was very quiet. We ate our sandwiches together. She didn't ask, but I told her a little about myself. She then looked at me and asked me if I was that lady on the news. She said I looked really familiar. I told her I was and that she had one good memory. She laughed and told me that she can remember a lot of things. She then looked at me and told me I was a good person. I didn't know what to say. I think I told her thank you and that she was a good person too.
I needed to get going and so I left. First of all, NEVER in my 34 years have I been in one room with such different people as me. I loved it! I found it fascinating. I have so much to learn from people. Everbody on that panel had gone though some kind of pain or struggle. Even though my pain and struggle was different than theirs, I came away knowing that I am not alone. Secondly, I felt led to pursue or perhaps mentor the young lady that I met that day. I contacted the woman that brought her. The woman emailed back and said YES, this young lady needs help. For those of you who know me, this is way out of my comfort zone. I would much rather work with kids. I don't know where this relationship will go, but I am confident that God will be at work. I have tried to call this young lady, but so far no answer. I will keep trying! For now I ask that you pray for my new friend. And pray for me as I try to reach out to her.
On another note - our insurance company decided to allow Josie to continue on our medical insurance. This is a huge answer to prayer, so I thank all of you who are out there praying!