Some thoughts on 'getting it right'

We’ve all heard the jokes about families that get together once a year at holiday time, and all they do is fight. Well, maybe that’s more honest than the old-style fairytales that make the holidays out to be a never-never land, where every family member is a candidate for sainthood!

The the fact is, life is imperfect, yet most of us still would take the imperfections of other people rather than the loneliness of being without anyone to love and cherish.  I guess that’s why I really like the photo on our home page, which was taken at Thanksgiving. It shows women at our shared community, staff and residents, experiencing the joy of a Thanksgiving meal. Yes, in our imperfect world, it’s still possible! And this is where the Julia Greeley Home comes in.

Our mission is to become the family support for the woman who is alone, abandoned or estranged from her own family, and forced by circumstances into homelessness. 

People are amazed when I tell them that there are hundreds of women today, right in the Denver area, who have education, talents, a career history, and yes, a past family life and who today are homeless! The trigger might be anything -- drugs or alcohol addictions, death of a spouse, illness, or serious financial problems. Economists say that many, if not most Americans are living a few paychecks away from being broke.

The fact is, there are few places for the homeless woman who is alone. Most programs are designed for men, or for women with children.

Julia’s is different. Our goal is to be the safe, secure place where each woman gets the personal time to examine what led her into homelessness so she can regain her focus on life -- by focusing on herself. It’s a time of self examination, so she can concentrate on becoming a woman of independence and good judgment. 

That means we are not a home for a woman and her children. When she’s living with her children, even on a part-time basis, a woman’s natural tendency is to “settle in” and concentrate on her children -- that’s natural. And it’s natural to get questions like, “Can I bring my children overnight?” “Can they come for dinner on weekends?” because presently we share our living space in a large home with Shannon’s Hope, a seasoned ministry of 30-plus years which is for pregnant women who sometimes have small children. 

 Julia’s is for the woman who is at a different place in life. And maybe this is where “life is imperfect” comes in. It may not be easy to see other women’s children every day and not your own, but Julia’s women have regular personal time when they can visit their children off campus, and we encourage those appropriate visitations. 

Can children join their mothers at Julia’s at a special occasion like Christmas dinner? Yes. But the mission of the Julia Greeley Home is to be that family for the women who has ended up alone for a reason. She needs the time to find out why, to have the time to examine her own life, so she can go back into the world as soon as possible. Then she can rebuild her own family life as the strong, self sufficient woman (and often a mother) that she is meant to be. 

Of course, only one family on earth got it completely “right” -- and that’s the Holy Family of Nazareth. They show by example that “family” doesn’t have to be another word for dissension and division. The values of the Holy Family begin with peace -- both in the home and with oneself. So, especially at this Christmas season, I am praying that each woman at Julia’s is blessed with peace, so she may return to a life of self sufficiency and become a light to her own family.