I was listening to a song named Loved Heals, and it struck me just how true that has been in my life. Mothers and fathers who live in poverty-stricken areas do not love their children any less than middle-class and wealthy parents.
But, the hardships and violence of poverty often takes a psychological as well as physical toll that inhibits their ability to show and speak love. The horror of not being able to care for a child and give them the time and attention they need often forces men, particularly, to leave their families just when their presence is most needed. Mothers who works two or three jobs to put food on the table and a roof above their children’s heads doesn’t have a lot physically or emotionally to give to those little ones who would much rather have time alone with them.
When I borrowed canned milk from neighbors to feed my infant son, I felt like such a failure, as though God had made a huge mistake appointing me to care for five fragile lives. Still feeling the effects of being poor all of my life, the pain of hunger and the embarrassment of your clothes or lack thereof, I did not feel worthy or competent. I wanted to do better but did not know how to change the situation.
Through the grace of God, I met a genuinely wonderful human being who taught me the value of love in transforming how people see themselves. It is the absence of self-love that damages so many, the inability to view themselves as capable of greatness. When someone begins to show them love, not romantically, but by acknowledging their humanity and value and worth as human beings, change becomes possible and desired.
It was the mercy shown me by this woman that changed my life and that of my children. She took me into her boarding house when I had no money to pay her, loved on my infant son and me, opened doors for me to find work, and taught me the value of faith and the power of prayer.
Her name was Mrs. Fannie, but nearly everyone at the boarding house called her Mom. She treated us like her own children, feeding us wonderful meals and providing bus fare to job interviews. But most of all, she was a great cheerleader, declaring us capable of and worthy of work.
Her love for people astounded me, for I had never witnessed that type of selfless generosity. Instead of me paying her when I had no job, she required me to teach literary at a local church, for she had not learned to read until she was in her late 40s. As I taught reading, I came to feel needed and valued.
Her love for others was evidence of her love for God, our Rock of Ages. She reintroduced me to the love of God that I had embraced when I was age 9, but which I had not been exposed to for years.
I was ecstatic when I found a great job that eventually led to my other four children coming to live with me. I was watchful of everything she did when she cared for my youngest child, and I copied Mom’s blueprint in how to love your children. I provided for their physical needs, emotional needs, and was their biggest cheerleader. I gave them the love that I had not received as a child, knowing from experience how vital love is for the survival of a child’s psyche.
Yes, love heals. The love of another human being recognizes our value and worth and our humanity. I realize that I need to spread more love, volunteering more in my community, for love that stays inside of us does no one any good. That song hit me hard this morning, and it convicted me, for as Jesus noted in Matthew 9:37: the harvest is still plentiful, but the laborers are still too few.