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Learning to Look Up

By Angela Zahner Shipley, MSW, Family Development Specialist

She came in to see me with her head down, her shoulders hunched, hair covering her face. She couldn’t look me in the eye.

Life had hit her hard.

Through her tears, she told me she was ashamed to ask for help. She just didn’t see herself as “that kind of person.” She had a 7-year-old child and she was pregnant. However, because of a domestic violence situation, she was homeless and on her own. She didn’t have a job. She didn’t know what to do.

I told her that day that she wasn’t alone. I was here to walk this journey with her, and together, we’d find a way to get through this. When we were finished talking at our very first meeting, she gave me a small hug. But she still couldn’t raise her eyes to look at me.


Strengthening Her Family and Her Future

We continued to meet and to work on plans together. With some rental assistance, she quickly found an apartment and got off the streets. She took a part-time job. We helped her get a crib, a car seat and diapers; the necessities she’d need for the baby’s arrival. But she needed more than “things.”

At one meeting, I asked her if she’d ever considered going back to school, taking some classes, being around other young adults. She seemed surprised. No one in her family had ever taken classes, she told me. Despite her hesitation, she took another step forward and enrolled at a local college. It was just one course, but it was a start.


A New Outlook

When her baby turned a year old, I went to visit her and her children for the last time. She was clearly thriving. So much had changed since that first day when I encountered a tearful, frightened young mother.

I turned to look at her as I left. She looked different; she was wearing a new hairstyle and a little makeup. But the biggest difference was that she was absolutely beaming. Clearly, she was thriving. As she smiled and waved goodbye, she looked me right in the eye. Her sense of shame had been replaced with confidence.

This is truly what we mean when we talk about transformation.

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