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everyday is a struggle


Every Day is a Struggle

 

Poverty and illness weigh heavily. “He doesn’t know how to ride a bike,” he said sadly. They have found a safe haven in their apartment. It goes beyond the families you’ll meet today. Children who desperately need a friend and abused mothers and their kids who help rebuild their lives. We are humbled to tell their stories. Our daily mission is to help our neighbors achieve self-sufficiency. 

There are many kinds of problems that families face every day. Leaking roofs and septic tanks, a young man with a brain injury, a grandfather who had a stroke. You cared, giving many families hope. They are struggling financially and emotionally because of medical problems: breast cancer, cerebral palsy, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, autism and mental illness. One man who has mild retardation sleeps under a bridge. A single mom and her five children have no possessions and eat on the floor. One dad lost a leg. This could not happen without their courage. It is given to the agencies to fulfill their wishes. They all have a common desire. 

Once a month they rent a movie and pop popcorn. She has other health problems that often land her in the hospital. Dental surgery is a priority. He often gets teased because of his teeth. He stays inside even on sunny days. She wakes up every morning in excruciating pain. Food and water were scarce. It’s been a difficult year for many. Some of their living rooms are empty. Life spiraled downward for this mother of two children. They are trying to improve their lives. It doesn’t take much to make a child smile. 

Crawling out from under a tight space, sleeping on a concrete slab cushioned by cardboard, the toll on his body, always sleeping with one eye open because people will steal anything. 

The breathing tubes dangle down toward a ventilator, a feeding machine, a heart-lung monitor. She sprays the medicated mist into her son’s lungs. She has a longing to be active again. If not for the pain in her back she would plant flowers. She waits for the day she can go out and hear music. She gets tired very easily. Eventually she stopped paying the rent. 

The walls of her all-pink bedroom are plastered with pictures of her favorite characters. Their tiny, moldy, manufactured home requires near constant care. She shows an amazing amount of skill and attention to detail for someone her age. Sometimes things happen and she gets stressed and she can’t control herself. 

She did the best she could. It was downhill, it was miserable. They have no winter clothes. In addition to the damage the storm did to their lives, they have been dealing with health problems. The medicine she takes for bad dreams has caused her to lose teeth. There’s no air conditioning. Carrying two boxes of clothes, all their possessions they took with them. She didn’t know if they’d be let in. 

She prays for her husband. They are well–adjusted to life. Disease ravaged the camp. Despite these setbacks they play video games and enjoy going to the mall. 

She looks up questioningly. The girls cry because they miss their father. She is trying to break the cycle. She takes care of a younger sister and an older brother who has Down syndrome. She’s very organized and never complains about anything. She thinks about these things every day. “I remember going without food, toilet paper and the lights going out. I quickly learned to cook and wash clothes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes but won’t run from them.” 

Despite her troubles, she must often lie down to regain her strength and move again. She is receiving counseling and emotional help. He emerges from his room playfully wielding a plastic sword. But the two are not together now. “I pray at night, but never ask God why this has happened to me,” she says. “If this is what He wants me to do, carry all these crosses, then that’s what I’m going to do.” 

The family needs everything. He just wants to have a normal life. Televisions stereos, DVD players and DVDs. All they have is each other. Their mom holds them together. No one has a bed. They can list their possessions in one sitting. That’s your world. You have to make it your world. His health is fragile, his home is in disrepair. They slam that door in your face. He has to get up every morning and strap that artificial leg on. His daily focus is on the needs of others. He yearns to give his son a reason to smile. It will take years to fix the vein damage. There are seven different daily pills he needs. His left arm is wrapped in badges. He has to find with his fingers an area of skin that has not been punctured. Perhaps she will find her calling. He is a slim young man tall for his age. 

Only the kindness of her landlord kept her off the streets. Fearing for his safety, he disappeared again. He has mental retardation, making him vulnerable. A warm, safe place to rest his body — oh yeah, it’s all good. 

There are no framed pictures on the walls. There is only a crib and a machine that keeps him alive. Her son requires almost nonstop medical attention. Getting out of bed to sit in a chair would be her definition of a good day. Their mind-set is that this is a temporary thing. She learned that advanced-stage cancer had spread to her back. He munched on a mini-pizza pocket he pulled from the oven. She has to worry if she can afford to stay in her neighborhood. Until she can walk again she has plenty of worries. For years she has been on the verge of homelessness. “This is not a badge of pride for me. I never wanted to be the poster child for poverty,” she says. 

The insurance company has cut her off. He dreams of college and a cinematography career, a laptop computer, a video camera, a dependable car. She falls asleep watching TV. She has a painful ache in her teeth but can’t afford a dentist. Mainly she finds herself worn to the bone. Her daughter’s condition can be trying. 

Many of the small items in her home are broken and unreliable. She also takes medication for congestive heart failure. She is grateful and optimistic. The kids are happy and healthy. She was pregnant at the time. There were dangerous animals, such as pythons and lions, threatening. They made the difficult decision to leave him behind. 

Still, her personal situation doesn’t keep her from dreaming. She recalls an unstable childhood. “I don’t want to suffer like this anymore,” she said, her voice cracking. She has chronic kidney failure, fibromyalgia and neuropathy of the feet. Among his wishes is to have a male mentor. “They’re my strength, more than they even know.” They lost their house. She teaches the family to never give up. He’s a different man than the one who served time. He can tell by the look of a man if you’re good person. Life gave him a lot of knockdowns. He takes pride n his resourcefulness. Sometimes they have to borrow money. Many leaks are damaging the structural integrity of the house. 

She thrives on inspirational videos and visits from girlfriends. She’s not making progress on a drawer full of medical bills. Everything was fine pretty much. She misses the creamy chicken casseroles. They were scraping. Friends lent them money. She has problems such as abnormal fatigue, vision trouble, slurred speed and difficulty walking. They can’t afford to live there, they can’t afford to move. She hasn’t had a boyfriend in 10 years. She finds herself worn out. It damaged her home and hopes. She has no one to help her. 

They turned their life around. Her courage has paid off but her life is far from perfect. She remembered the city’s beauty. For years she thought her husband was dead. But their reunion was cut short. Their donated furniture is worn. Their patio empty. 

He goes to soup kitchens to cure the hunger pangs. Live on the streets for a week in order to understand the homeless. He’s a kind of person with helping hands. They won’t know for years the severity of his physical and mental challenges. One night, she was crying at his bedside. She doesn’t know she’s hurting. She doesn’t know she’s sick. She’s not going to cry anymore. He didn’t have a choice. He didn’t choose to go through all those surgeries. Yet he’s happy every day. He tries to give a little smile every day. She is joyfully committed to raising her son. 

Her mother acknowledges poor choices. Their bond is particularly tender. He is constantly warning his sons about gangs. They live from paycheck to paycheck, waiting and hoping. He extends his hand, but looks at the floor. Taxi rides are expensive for their budget. They clearly look out for each other. His job is to go to school and learn. It gave him something good and he’s not about to lose it. He wants him to be way more than he was. 

When he talks he conceals his teeth. She depends on the bus to get around. The twins were born prematurely and require many doctor’s appointments. She’s had a difficult life. She collects crosses and angels as symbols of her faith. She volunteers at her church when she is able to find transportation. 

A whole new life lay ahead of them. Her voice rose above the low hum of the oxygen machine, the motorboat sound of the suction device and the ring of the heart-lung monitor. “If you act like everything is perfect and fine, that’s the way it’s going to develop,” he said. 

“The not walking is the hardest,” she said. The back pain feels like a tight grip. Her family’s clothes are worn from wear. She’s the real hero in all of this. They could think of a million luxuries they’d love. 

Her rented home became unlivable. They were just in a town with depression. She was brave enough to start a new life. We remember what a sense of freedom that was. They started with only two suitcases. It was a dream shopping trip. The children were amazed. It’s a continuation of what they’ve done for many years. He said, “Give whatever you can to this end.” He hoped they’d get enjoyment out of them. They reunited there briefly. He is waiting for approval to move. 

Their past success inspired them to collaborate. It couldn’t have come at a better time. They didn’t want anyone to feel excluded. What’s left over is used for similar needs. Their involvement has been an incredible experience. They share their dreams. Options are scarce. Every thing it takes to make a home is a dream. For the moment they’ll be happy. 

She wants to cultivate her daughter’s interest in playing the piano. She sometimes gets upset at school. Caring can be stressful. She was moved and immediately spotted a way. It piqued her interest. The resources are simply not there. It’s a side effect of his nearly life-long struggle. They can relate to each other. He was very grateful that they were willing to look. They remind him to always be positive. She keeps him stable. She is smart and devoted. She has learned she’s stronger than she thought. His smile was worth everything. 

This will simplify his life. His life will be a bit easier. He hopes to get a job as a janitor. He can get a warm hat and a cup of coffee. There are places he frequents for meals. News of impending assistance was a thrill. He was feeling very fortunate. She was wondering if someone didn’t deserve it more. They have barely survived and are on the verge of homelessness. She has more optimism about the future. He wished he’d been able to help her more during the crisis. She felt like she went through a caterpillar period and is now emerging as a butterfly. “Let’s not look back but look forward.” 

She knows what it’s like to do without. They were impressed by her desire to improve herself. She thinks back on those days with sadness. Trips to school or doctor are difficult. She set goals for herself and met them right away. She never complains about anything. No one is hurting her. She struggles every day to find a better life. He is dedicated to giving. He takes pride in caring. His goal in life is to stay alive. 

“It’s amazing how we are all one personal crisis away from needing each other,” she said. She was touched by the request. He seems to understand the depths of his father’s love. She began crying when she read the story. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t we know about this?” she asked. 

A bicycle, a ride on a horse, bring joy to the boy. He would love for her to take him to restaurants. She is trying to raise more money. He wants to help. She felt sorry for the young man because he isn’t getting a childhood. “I just can’t say enough about what he’s done,” she said. “If he could take her with him, it would be just perfect.” 

They learn the right lesson the right way. They have plans to improve themselves. They express a heartwarming level of compassion. “I hope that you can come soon. I hope you get what you like,” he said. It gave the woman great joy at the end of her life. It came after a particularly rough patch. She didn’t want to be seen giving up. The marriage didn’t end her financial struggles. She had become weaker and had trouble breathing. She died the next day, surrounded by her family. 

This disease can cause fatigue. One of his sisters died from it and the other sister has it. It’s something that touched their lives pretty closely. He was glad to give him information to get him on his way. 

She has made the right connections for her family. A trip would brighten their holidays. He was without words. These are spontaneous gifts of love. 

People you’ll never see, stories you’ll never know. Critical needs in their community spur people to reach out. The smallest things can make a difference. Vehicles carry families during difficult times. They were totally blown away. She wishes she could do more. 

— from the Austin American-Statesman, November 25-December 15, 2007
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