Ah, Spring! Allergies and all, for many of us, it is a favorite time of year.
Of all the marvels of nature, surely the hardy, daring flowers of spring are among the most awe-inspiring. Lying dormant all winter, the foliage seem to shyly pop through the hard, crusty soil undetected. The bright yellow of the blooming daffodil, the shocking red of freshly opened tulips take us by glad surprise every year. We marvel at the survival mechanism innate in each one, that just naturally pushes through to new life, regardless of the garden debris, the condition of the soil, or even the threat of a late frost. It’s one of nature’s finest displays. The will to survive, to live, to breathe free, to fulfill a destiny purposed by our Creator-God is undeniably part of the human experience as well.
Once a person finds the courage to think about the possibilities and see the enormous potential that has been lying dormant, an excitement begins to build that is a thing of rare beauty. Just like the flower-beds at my house, though, in order for the plants to have a fighting chance, there is some work to be done. Last year’s leaves need to be raked and removed. The soil may need to be loosened, and that’s only the beginning. The never-ending task begins; removing strangling weeds before they can choke or stifle growth. Our clients usually come to us as lifeless as last year’s garden. We hear the stories of neglect and abuse, violence and underage alcohol and drug abuse. All these things hamper growth and health in devastating ways, and have to be removed like so much garden debris.
A new, clean environment is necessary, and a new lifestyle must be learned, with new ways of thinking and managing life. Old hangouts have to be removed; old hurts and hang-ups have to be addressed, and old habits have to be pulled up by the roots. And, like gardening, it’s hard work!!!
One client sold drugs successfully for nineteen years, all the while raising her children, attending their school events and PTA meetings; for all appearances, a soccer mom. She rarely used the drugs, but enjoyed the financial security and lifestyle the money afforded. It has been difficult to teach her the value of working hard at a minimum wage job, living frugally and saving every dime for the cost of fines and legal battles that lie ahead for her to regain custody of her children.
Another client whose family continues to use and abuse pain pills, finds it difficult to be around her family members, because of their lifestyle. It has been challenging to help her make the difficult choice to find community in recovery groups, or even be alone rather than spending time with family and friends from her past. It takes a lot of hard work, courage and perseverance to start over again. And, it’s virtually impossible to do it alone.
Recently a social work intern I was interviewing asked me the fascinating question: “What does success look like in this organization?” The first thing that entered my mind was, “Success looks like a family re-united.” To see the contented smile on the face of a little child with his tiny arms wrapped around his mommy’s neck is success for us, especially after having walked the journey together and watched the grueling process up close and personal.
But it is more than that: one of the most important things for us to keep in mind is the next generation. The children are at tremendous risk to repeat the dysfunction of the parents if the cycle isn’t broken. The benefits of a re-united family, restored to health and wholeness, is of incalculable value to the children, our schools, and our society.