Friday, May 17, 2013

Boundaries of the heart

Mother’s Day has prompted me to explore what I’ve learned about the responsibility in the past year and how my perspective has shifted.

I feel very motherly toward the 13 under-served neighborhood kids I’ve championed through art the past nine months. I write them a personal note between monthly sessions and phone several days ahead as a reminder. I often encounter them walking through the neighborhood, at the grocery and in their complex, which I visit several times a month.

Artsy Fartsy registration & community art day/Tad Barney photo
I’ve gotten to know them and their families. I’ve visited some of their homes and organized my neighborhood and faith communities to purchase a computer, printer and years’ worth of Internet for one very needy family. I often find myself encouraging mothers and grandmothers, reminding them of the goodness that I experience in and with their children. Heaven knows, I need reminders about my own kids. Sometimes I feel as if I parent these younger, single mothers at times. Maybe that’s because I don’t carry the burden they do.

Without exception, most of the 10 girls in the program come from single-parent families or bounce between parents. Several are fortunate to have very active grandmothers in their lives. A pair of sisters is being raised by their father. I don’t know the story, but there is no evidence of a mother; there is an involved grandmother and dedicated extended family. Interestingly, the boys live with both parents. One is the oldest of five and I see how his father really works at being responsible. I don’t think he’s ever had a role model; however the father of one of the other boys mentors him. I’ve witnessed how hard the father of sisters works to make sure his girls are involved. His youngest is the first kid I met at the complex the day I visited to plant yard signs announcing Artsy Fartsy. She and her sister, along with their father, were promptly the first in line to sign up.

So it was with a heavy heart I learned they had moved, though I know things I hear in the complex are not always the truth. As several said when interviewed about the impact Artsy Fartsy has had, “it gets us away from the drama.” Then I remembered that the father’s phone had been disconnected and he had driven the girls last time in his father’s car. All the other times they had taken the van one of the boy’s fathers drives when he’s not working Saturdays.

In desperation and because I really care about these girls, I called their school … just to confirm they had moved. The secretary, who iterated that she could not give out personal information, said the father had assured her they had not. Yet, I’d received no answer when I’d knocked at the door several times and called the second contact number. Putting on my persistent-reporter hat, I asked if she could tell me if any of the phone numbers I had were still good. No, she responded, then kindly gave me one that was, where I reached the father. Apparently he’d found work much closer to his parents’ house and was spending more time there, driving the girls back and forth.

I was so relieved.

I’ve been warned by well-intentioned others not to get too involved or feel like I have to be the social worker. I do take those concerns to heart and understand part of my growth work is in establishing boundaries.

But what, exactly, are the boundaries of the heart? Isn’t that the mother’s dilemma?

When I do understand something is not mine to do, but still feel as if I’d like to, the best remedy is prayer – to ask God to be present and working in that situation. It’s taken me a long time to recognize the wisdom and comfort in that act of faith and trust.

It’s that same action, one stemming from the heart, that stirred me, one step at a time, to prepare and eventually reach out to these children and families. Being human, I am certain I would have never said yes to Spirit had she outlined everything in total. I can, however, say yes one small piece at a time and be transformed in the process.

I believe mothering is simply the act of joining myself with other: 
myself + other = m’other = mother

• Who have been the “mothers” in my life?
• How am I a mother regardless of my gender?
• How do I join myself with other?
• How has prayer helped me ask God to mother when I can not?
• How has mothering expanded my heart?

1# Yes
simply to help
40 first graders
with scissors

planting a seed

#2 Yes
Listening to
God’s call
to go to the
woods, alone,
on retreat

the soil

#3 Yes
Believing Jesus’
promise in the
center of the
that I would
not be given
more than
I could do

the dream

#4 Yes
applying for

the seedling

#5 Yes
setting up
the studio and
Artsy Fartsy

adding the
warmth of

#6 Yes
during the

growing my
trust and faith

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