Closer to Home…a homeless teen initiative.

 

As many of you know, several months ago I wrote a blog post about homelessness. In it, I shared a very personal and private view of the four years I spent as a homeless teen. (You can read that post here http://www.lovedawn.com/homelessness-has-a-face-and-its-mine/)

Within a day of its posting, it went viral and was eventually picked up 13 different news outlets. I was floored by the outpouring of support from the people who were deeply affected by it, and whose hearts had softened towards the people and issues that surround homelessness. I received thousands of messages, emails and comments asking, “How can we help?”  It just further proves my firm belief that if given a chance to truly understand, people always rise. I. LOVE. HUMANS!

In an effort to truly be able to answer your question, “How can I help?”, I took to the streets. I’ve spent the last few months downtown where the action is, spending time and sharing space with homeless people, and the countless organizations who support them. I’ve met with civic leaders who are championing the cause. I’ve read a million studies and I’ve asked a million questions. Through that I’ve gotten the education of a life time. Homelessness is worldwide chronic problem, leaving no community untouched. Its population is diverse and the solutions are complex. Although it’s not fair to compare such immense hardship, there was one subgroup that stood in glaring contrast in vulnerability and resources. It was the youth.

 

So what did I learn? Well, here’s a start:

  • Every year, more than 2 million kids will face some period of homelessness.
  • Teen homelessness is skyrocketing. Salt Lake City’s homeless population more than doubled in 2017. San Diego saw a 39 percent jump in homeless youth over the past year. In Atlanta, the number of homeless youth in 2016 was estimated to be nearly triple that of previous years. After a concerted effort to count homeless young people, Seattle’s King County saw its numbers jump more than 700 percent between 2016 and 2017. The number of homeless, unaccompanied public school students increased one-fifth between 2012 and 2015.
  •  57% of homeless kids spend at least one day every month without food.
  • According to a study of youth in shelters, nearly 50% reported intense conflict or physical harm by a family member as a major contributing factor to their homelessness.
  • 50% of adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months because they are unprepared to live independently and have limited education and no social support.
  • A study done by Penn State and Layola University revealed some very startling statistics. 91% of youth reported being propositioned for sex or forced labor in exchange for getting their basic needs met (food, shelter) within 24 hours of being homeless. 95% of sex trafficked youth report a history of maltreatment, with 49% being sexually abused.
  • Almost 40% of the homeless in the United States are under 18.
  • They need us.

Through this knowledge, “Closer to Home” was born.

Closer to Home” is a homeless teen initiative, whose mission is to create awareness about teen and youth homelessness. Our goal is simple. Rally communities to the cause through donation, mentorship, and service.

Out of the gates, we are setting the bar high. We are starting with an eight-week funding, mentorship and service campaign. Federal funding is limited for the teen population, so 70% of the budget has to come from private donations. It takes roughly 3.5 million dollars a year to fund teen homeless services, and that is just on the local level! Some of these organizations are losing their funding this summer, rendering these services and the youth they serve, very vulnerable.

So, for the next eight weeks I have rallied celebrities to bring their love and their talents downtown to serve the homeless teen community. Each week, they will get the privilege of serving a meal, spending time, and then holding a private event for the youth that reside there.
The service mini concert series provides a chance for stars to lead by example, beckoning communities throughout our nation follow suit.

These concert events provide the following:

  • The gift of a normal teen experience.  When food and shelter have become luxury items, concerts just aren’t something these kids get to do. During my years as a homeless teen, feeling “normal” was a precious commodity. To have people to laugh and spend time with, who aren’t looking down at you as a charity case but rather as an equal. An equal who just needs the time and space to “get there.” The goal is to give these kids a moment where they step away from their problems, and get lost in joy. It shows them that they aren’t invisible or forgotten. That we, as a community SEE THEM and are here to rally behind them. These kids are worth showing up for, and I believe that it goes a long way in healing their sense of self-worth.
  • It casts a light on an underserved population – Each week a new video will be launched showcasing the event, telling the stories of these teens and organizations that support them. We’ll talk about the holes in the system and how we as a community can help. It grants me a chance to educate the public on some very vital programs who are showing an almost 80% success rate of getting these kids working, housed and well on their way to complete self-sufficiency. Most importantly, we will be consistently rallying communities throughout the world to DONATE, MENTOR & SERVE these very deserving youth.

Together, I believe that we can bring these incredible youth Closer to Home.

 

***statistical references will be listed in future posts that dive deeper than this brief overview.

Dawn Armstrong

Homelessness has a face…and it’s mine.

I come from a long line of broken women and bad men.  By the time I was 14, I had experienced so much suffering and abuse that I was tired of being scared all of the time. One day I packed a bag and headed for the city. I didn’t know where I would go, or what I would do…but I knew that I had to get out of there.
No one came looking for me, either.

By nature, I am an introvert. I was always quiet and reserved as a child, never asking for much. Needing things got me into trouble. I learned to stay shadows to avoid that trouble. Being homeless however, it taught me how to be an extrovert. I knew that if I wanted a meal or a place to sleep, I had to learn to make friends quickly. I learned to read people well and to listen when they talked. I always knew when it was time leave. It was around the time that parents started asking,

“Do her parents know she’s been here for three days?”

“Should I call her mother?”

“Why is she still here?”

Yep, time to go.

Making friends became my job. Getting food and shelter was how I got paid. When you aren’t old enough to work, you become very resourceful. As soon as I was of legal working age, I held down a job and went to school. Working was never a problem for me. I was an Iowa farm girl. I knew how to work. I took any job I could get—mostly fast food or as a waitress. It was quick money, I had somewhere to eat, and I was warm for my whole shift.

There were times where there just wasn’t a friend to be made. I would sleep anywhere and everywhere I could find. There was one night in particular that’s burned into my memory.

It was right in the middle of a harsh Midwest winter, and it was frigid outside. I had no coat. I just had this basketball sweatshirt with my name on the back of it. Man, I loved that sweatshirt so much. I had bought it with the money I earned de-tasseling corn for a local farmer a few summers back. Something about that sweatshirt made me feel normal—like I was just this kid on a basketball team who had a great life and was not a homeless beggar. That cold, winter night I walked up and down the streets of Council Bluffs, Iowa, not sure what to do. I remembered that one of the friends I’d stayed with had recently moved. I wondered if the house was still vacant. In complete desperation, I ran to the house and found that it hadn’t been rented yet. I went to the back, scaled the house, popped open the window and crawled inside. To my despair, the heat was turned off. It was still so cold. I looked around for anything that had been left behind to cover myself up with. Nothing remained, so I found a carpeted room in the middle of the home and laid down. I rolled up in a ball and shoved my knees as far up my sweatshirt as I could. I put my hands inside the sleeves in an attempt to warm them to any degree. I sat in the dark and cried.

I felt so alone in the world. My hands hurt. My stomach was so hungry. The weight of my situation was so heavy. As I sobbed that night, I could see my breath in the dark, another painful reminder of how cold it was even inside the house. Exhaustion set in. I could feel my body start to succumb to how tired it was.
My last thoughts that night were wondering if I would freeze to death. If this spot in the carpet would be my final resting place. Would this be the way that I died? I wondered if there would be a funeral.  I couldn’t think of anyone who would come. How would they even know who I was if no one was looking for me? I was afraid to go to sleep, not certain that I was going to wake up. I was just so tired.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of someone entering the back door. I was startled and shot up like a rabbit. I heard them talking. It was the landlord showing the house. They saw me, and I ran out the front door in shame. Shame that they saw my need. Shame that they knew. Shame that I had broken into his home because I had nowhere to go. I ran for three blocks before I stopped. That adrenaline was the first warmth I had felt in a long time. The tears came back.

At the time, I didn’t even know I was pregnant with my first child. Being homeless was becoming very inconvenient. Things that people don’t realize:

You can have a baby at 16, but you can’t sign a lease. You can’t buy a car. You can’t turn on your utilities. You can get welfare, but technically I made too much money. In time, I made enough money to support myself to some degree, but none of it mattered because I wasn’t legal. I found a few friends that let me stay here and there, but there was no stability. Everything relied on me never being underfoot and always perfect. I always tried to disappear or remain in the room of the friend I was staying with. I did this somewhat in hopes that they would forget I was there, and I’d get to stay longer. My survival was completely based on the generosity of others creating space for me in their life. At seventeen, hoping for a miracle, I reunited with my child’s father and found myself pregnant again. Upon this news, my boyfriend left us for his full-ride scholarship.

I had no choice anymore. I had to keep Anthony safe. He would not survive freezing temperatures.  I went to a homeless shelter which broke the rules and let me stay there. I can’t tell you how humbling it was to walk through those doors with one hand on my pregnant belly and the other holding the hand of my one-year-old—especially knowing that this was all I had for them, and it wasn’t even mine to give.
I would stay in this homeless shelter until the day I turned 18.

In the homeless community there are two subcultures. There are vagrants, and there are homeless.

Vagrants are those who have accepted homelessness as their way of life. They come to shelters for a meal and a bed. They have no interest in rehabilitation or getting off the streets. Something in their way of thinking shifted in life. Homelessness grants them anonymity. They are able to escape expectations, responsibilities, and heartbreak. In my experience, most have some mental illness. They seek refuge in friends who need that escape, too. A high percentage of them are riddled with addiction because that’s the way they truly get to “disappear.” When the generosity of others wains or the drugs run out, they aren’t above committing crimes or hurting you to steal what you’ve got.

The homeless are the rest of us. I spent four years in that world, and I can tell you firsthand who these people are. They are people who were in similar situations to mine, either experiencing teen pregnancy or escaping abuse at home. Some were battered women who took their kids and ran. Some had lost jobs, and for others, medical bills were the cause of their financial demise. Some were people that had been shunned by the world for one reason or another and had just shut down. Back in my time, there were a lot of LGTBQ people or girls who had gotten pregnant and had been kicked out of their homes for disappointing their families. They had nowhere to go.

We were all ashamed to be there. Deep shame. The kind that makes your soul quake.  At first, we all just tried to stay in our rooms. It was easier to not have to look people in the eye. During meal and chore times, we were forced to interact. Sometimes the thought of having to face people made me really not hungry. I only went into the kitchen because my baby needed to eat.

One evening during another awkward meal at the dinner table, I got brave and asked the person sitting next to me, “So what are you in for?” The whole table laughed, and we all started to open up about what had gotten us there—the roads we had traveled. Every single one of us wanted a chance to say that we were more than just our circumstances. It helped with the shame. When people came into volunteer, it made us all uncomfortable in a sense. We scattered like roaches. We didn’t want to be seen or treated as less. Some of that stemmed from how we viewed ourselves, being in one of the weakest moment of our lives. When we had chores that brought us face to face with staff or volunteers, we were quick to tell our stories. We didn’t want to be lumped in with vagrants. We didn’t put ourselves above the vagrant population, but it was vital to our long-term survival for those around us to know that WE WANTED OUT! We didn’t want to be here. We needed people to stop judging us long enough to see that. No one could judge us as critically as we judged ourselves. We, too, wanted so desperately to hold our heads high and do well for ourselves. Our chances at that point relied solely on people’s willingness to see beyond our circumstances. We needed someone willing to open a few doors for us—doors we couldn’t open for ourselves, despite our best efforts.

I signed the lease for my first apartment on my 18th birthday. I walked through that door with pride. I owned nothing but the two towels assigned to me by the homeless shelter, along with three children’s books given to me that I read to Anthony every night. I bet the people who donated those books had no idea how much I’d come to treasure them. They were three of the five things that I owned. My apartment wasn’t much by the world’s view, but those were the most beautiful four walls I had ever seen. They were my four walls.

I wish I had the time and space to tell you the whole story, because the first 20 years were absolute hell and this post makes it look like Candyland. It got so much worse. I only give you this rare and very private view of my life because I want people to see that
struggle…has a face. It’s my face.

For months I have watched cities throughout Utah consistently reject bringing homeless resource centers into their communities. This week it happened in my own home town of Draper, Utah. A proposal to house a resource center for women and children was brutally rejected, no questions asked. As leaders tried to calm the angry mob and address concerns, they were booed or yelled at. Threats and insults were flying everywhere. I can’t tell you how much it broke my heart. I don’t think my community realized they were rejecting one of their own. 20 years ago, that was me.

Draper’s response was no different than any other proposed hosting city. Every meeting has had the same result, each proposed site being shot down with the same vigor. Rooms filled with anger, resentment and awful words spoken. This happens in cities all throughout our nation whenever the subject of homelessness comes up.

The heart of the message is always the same: “We don’t want you.”

I can’t help but feel the sting of that sentiment. I can guarantee that for some of the people walking the halls of those homeless shelters, they’ve heard those words before…and it’s part of what landed them there.

There is also a very important part of the story that you aren’t hearing—the end.

After struggle… comes triumph. I normally wouldn’t give my resume (I’m not about that life), but I think it’s imperative in this instance because people need to understand that someone’s beginning does not determine their ending.

I went on to have a beautiful life. I worked HARD. I fought my way OUT of poverty. I worked multiple jobs and never turned my nose up at an opportunity to further myself.  All of those desperate times shaped my character in ways you can’t even imagine. It gave me the grit I needed to stare down the obstacles in my life, including myself. People’s willingness to see my potential—rather than my circumstances—gave me a chance to move on and to do beautiful things. I outworked everyone, because I wanted a good life.

I spent a long career as a director at a local hospital, where I specialized in addiction recovery, motivational workshops, marketing and strategic planning, clinical care, and sensitivity training. I was the first person in the State of Utah to achieve several National Awards for Excellence. I served as a consultant for several hospitals throughout the Intermountain West. In 2009, I walked away from my six-figure salary to stay home with my (Surprise!) twins.

For several years now, I’ve devoted hundreds of hours to humanitarian service every month—thousands of hours per year. I spend time investing in communities around the globe. I sit with the broken. All day, every day… I walk people out of the dark. Some of the time is spent in mentorship programs for young single mothers. Some of it is spent at the women’s prison, or juvenile detention centers. I’ve also worked with bereavement groups.  I’ve held dead babies in my arms while mothers wept from their unspeakable loss. Often times it’s in a church. I work with men, women, and youth around the world, counseling them through abuse, addiction, marriage, suicide, grief, loss, LGBTQ issues, and a host of other heartbreaking circumstances. I love my life and I don’t make a dime, although I have been able to help raise money for others in need. In fact, sharing a tiny bit of my story helped to earn the American Red Cross 1.2 million dollars.

I have been happily married to an incredible man for 20 years this summer. We have eight well-educated, nurtured and loving children that go out to serve with us. That is ten people serving communities. And the generations that follow them will, too.

My son Anthony… he’s currently in the Junior Core at the Marriot School of Business, one of the top business schools in the country,  highly focused on integrity in business. His education follows two years of service in South Africa, where he had the chance to lift up and offer aid to some of the world’s most humble and impoverished people. My next oldest son, Andrew, has just sent in the paperwork to serve for two years as well. Upon returning, his plan is to attend medical school. My other children are too young to know their futures, but I know they will serve their communities well because it’s modeled at home.

My point is that we have to look at the return investment. I am confident in saying that it worked out for those who invested in a tiny homeless girl in the Midwest. We won’t always see the ending, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful one.

We have got to recognize what Charity is and what it isn’t. Charity is not going down to the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving and serving dinner, then snapping a picture for Instagram. Charity is not being willing to help those in need, as long as they stay out of our communities. That’s the worldly and human need for a social pecking order, with the elite always remaining on top.
We might as well be saying, “I am fine helping you, but know your place. The only way you are welcome in my community is if you can afford to buy your own ticket.”

Can we truly call that the pure love of Christ?  Christ entered the world homeless, and was of humble means throughout his life. Yet his contributions are quite literally our saving grace.  I think his view on this subject was pretty clear:

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not…
Inasmuch as ye have done
 it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Good people of the world, I challenge us to search our consciences—to channel our Christian hearts. Good deeds are not done by walking into a church. They are done when you walk outside of that church and help others.

We have got to change this “No Room in the Inn” mentality. There’s room if we make room. True charity is sacrifice. True charity is giving to the point that it hurts a little bit, or sometimes an awful lot. That’s the very essence of Christianity: loving sacrifice. It’s what shapes our character and defines our hearts. I beg of our communities to share in the sacred responsibility to serve our most needy.

Stephen Colbert said it best:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

 

Dawn L. Armstrong is a humanitarian, speaker, blogger, and lover of all people. Her autobiography, “A New Dawn”, highlights the struggle to break the chains of abuse, neglect, and poverty. In it she provides insight on how to heal from the wounds of this world, and go on to have an extraordinary life. Look for it in book stores later this year.

 

 


 

 

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What it’s been like to raise a black child in a white world.

I’ve waited a really long time to write this. I felt like this is such an important topic that I wanted to wait until I had a broader reach, in hopes that I had the chance to open more eyes. I thought that if I could earn enough respect in the eyes my peers that maybe my words wouldn’t be tossed aside, as they so frequently are whenever I broach this subject. I realize now that I haven’t met anyone with that kind of influence. Most of us tune out when the dialogue no longer fits our ideals, regardless of who’s doing the talking. To change the hearts of men is a task. Consider this my contribution to opening up the dialogue to a conversation that’s been often misunderstood and at the very least, unrepresented.

Let’s get the stereo types out of the way up front, shall we? Some will dismiss my comments if I lean too far one way or another politically. I’m right in the middle – a compassionate conservative that votes independent. I believe in people’s ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles, and I believe there is no better place to do that than America. I love my country.  My heroes in life –  military, police officers, teachers and nurses. Quite frankly because they get paid the least yet do the most to contribute to our society. That’s a lot of character in my book. Enough said.

When they laid Anthony in my arms almost 24 years ago, he truly was a miracle. After so much abuse and suffering in my own young life- I held someone completely untainted by the world. There was hope in that…in him. For most of my life, love had eluded me. Yet here it was laid before me – in the shape of tiny brown fingers and tiny brown toes. Anthony was truly the first love of my life. To learn to love and nurture someone along was the hardest yet, most beautiful gift in the world. Every positive change I made in my own life was because he gave me something, or rather someone, to fight for.

Throughout our country there consists a great debate on whether to kneel or whether to stand. A lot of you have come to the party late my friends, because I’ve been doing both for almost two and a half decades.

To preface -I have always viewed the world through rose colored glasses. I’m serious, they are glued to my face. While raising Anthony, I never thought his brown skin would be an issue. I was convinced that racism was a thing of the past. I mean, we had all out grown that right? Yeah, there were some older folks that had some whacked ideas – but it was easy to put those aside. My son had all doors open to him, and it was up to him to decide which ones he would walk through.

Anthony grew up being taught the following values:

  1. You are smart, important and have great worth.
  2. You have a special place in the family. You are the oldest, the leader, the example.
  3. You can do anything you set your mind to. Dream big and work hard.
  4. You aren’t a victim – you are a victor. There may be people that do not like you because of your nose, your skin color, your personality – it can be a host of different reasons. It’s not fair, I know – but learning to navigate difficult people is part of life. Although their actions may hurt, don’t be crippled by it. You get to choose your own destiny. Don’t let anyone rob you of that. Either win them over or find a way to move around them. If you let someone stand in the way of your dreams – the blame is on you. This is YOUR LIFE and no one holds more power over it than you.
  5. You have been bestowed a beautiful gift through your heritage. You are black and white. Through that you have a lens that can transcend two different languages. In all of the great debates you can show people love and a perspective they didn’t even realize. That’s one of the most precious gifts you could ever be given.

Honestly, I felt like I was rockin’ the whole mom thing. I was giving my son a strong sense of self, right? Yet as time went on…I started to notice some things. I continued to push them aside…thinking that there’s always going to be a few people in society that don’t get it, right? But then the older he got…the more it was there. The more I could no longer “rose color glasses” the situation. I was forced to see.

Now the second I say “white privilege” white people are going to wince. Some people think it means that white people have never struggled, don’t know suffering, or didn’t earn where they are in life. That everything was handed to them on a silver platter. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no “participation trophy” for being white. White people have it hard too. I did. I fought like hell to get where I am. I think most people do, in one way or another.

However, as the mother of two black babies and six white ones…I’m here to tell you that it’s different. There are things that my white kids will never have to know. There are things you will never have to know as a white parent to white children.

And here they are:

You’ll never know what it’s like…. to have families take their kids out of daycare when they find out their children are playing with your black baby… and then have them offer the owner more money if she’d get rid of the “problem.” Anthony was one at the time.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your son come home crying from school because he’s been told his black skin was a curse – or when he volunteers in the lunch line, some kids refuse to accept his service because they “don’t want brown people touching their milk.”

You’ll never know what it’s like to have a nurse curtly send your five-year-old back to the waiting room because “he doesn’t look like he belongs to you.” Then go on and on about how dark he is compared to your other baby – right in front of him.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your black son be forced to empty his pockets at church in front of all the white kids because something came up missing before he even entered the room. No one else emptied their pockets. Then when you confront the teacher he says right in front of your son, “Why do you care…does he live with you or something?

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your son participate in your church’s Pioneer Trek only to be called “Nigger*” for three days and asked to do extra chores because that’s “what he would have been doing during that era.” It was super spiritual. (*I’m not calling it the “N” word either, cause it never sounds that nice coming out of someones mouth. If it offends you by reading it, then it gives you some sense of how hard it is to be called it. I hate this word!
I can’t even have my mouth form it.
)

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your son be called “Nigger” every day, several times, all throughout high school.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have someone give your son a campus tour and as they survey the grounds, his “friend” tells him, “Isn’t it amazing that fifty years ago you’d be hanging from one of these trees?”

You’ll never know what it’s like to have “team” sleep overs where your son gets called “Monkey” and “Nigger” all night long. Finally after asking nicely several times, he gets so angry he pushes the ring leader up against the wall and says, “STOP IT.” To which the kid responds, “We’re only joking man…you know that we’re your friends, right?”  Yeah, cause that’s what friendship feels like.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your son come home on the bus with all of his “team mates” and have someone behind him make a hangman’s noose out of athletic tape, dangle it in his face in front of everyone while saying the words, “I’m gonna rope ya boy.” as everyone laughs.  I do thank the one kid that stood up for him. <3

You’ll never know what it’s like to have to make a million uncomfortable phone calls to parents because their kid called my son a “Nigger” only to have them not believe that little Johnny could ever say such a thing. When little Johnny does finally apologize, it’s “Sorry, Nigger.” And you call back only to be told you are raising your son as a “victim”.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have someone say to your kid, “I’d shoot some Niggers,” or “I can take care of the racism problem at our school with five bullets”, because there were five black students.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have coaches rave over your sons athletic ability, but not want to be burdened by his problems. To have his playing time directly related to his willingness to take being called racial slurs by most of the team. To have a coach get angry and up in your face when he’s forced to punish a white kid who’s a really good player… because your son’s respect and inclusion isn’t worth losing a game. To have your teenage son lay his head on your lap night after night, sobbing because his coach told him, “As long as I’m coach, you’ll never touch the ball,”  cause that’s the punishment for being a “whiner.”

You’ll never know what it’s like to have a person’s eyes go from friendly to hatred because I’m saying something that causes them to acknowledge their own bias.

You’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman who’s physically intimidated while standing up to an angry man – yet you choose to stand firm because your black son is watching you defend him – and you can’t afford to have him see you flinch.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have a police officer stop your son as he waits on the sidewalk for us to join him at his state wrestling tournament, only to be asked if he’s there to cause trouble and then be warned that they have their “eye on him.”

You’ll never know what it’s like to have to make 21 years worth of phone calls, schedule meetings with coaches, teachers, administrators throughout the entirety of your son’s life and school career. Meetings where no matter how awful things get for him,  it’s always chalked up to – “Boys will be boys.” or “They didn’t mean it.” or “It was just a joke.” To have every single thing he goes through constantly minimized.

You’ll never know what it’s like to sob because you realize there are some circles in your son’s life that will never be open to him. To certain people he will always be less. To realize he will always have to work twice as hard to get the same respect as a white kid. To have that so clearly evident as you raise your own white kids.

You’ll never know what it’s like to tell your white friends all of your struggles and have them be so shocked and outraged that “all of this still goes on.” Yet never once offer to come and stand with you, because it’s not really their problem.

You’ll never know what it’s like to be “one of THOSE people,” Because you are only allowed to complain so many times about the treatment of your child before you’re labeled “sensitive” or a “special snow flake”.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have your child cry and wish he was white so he didn’t have to deal with this every day… and have times that you secretly and shamefully think those thoughts too, because you are just so damn tired.

You’ll never know what it’s like to have most of these people share your faith or even go to church with you. To find yourself praying every Sunday that God will help you forgive them of their offenses, or of their silence.

You’ll never know what it’s like to raise your child to not be a victim, only to eventually realize that he is – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

If that’s not a privilege, then I don’t know what is.

It has to be said that Anthony has also had amazing white coaches, teachers and mentors in his life.  My son’s life has been and continues to be filled with incredibly good white people. I thank God every day for their positive contributions in his life. They will never know how much it truly means to him, and to me. So, how many amazing people does it take to reverse the damage of the “few”?  I still can’t answer that, because it’s not like it won’t ever happen again.

What I do know is that for 24 years I have knelt in prayer trying to find the strength to keep having the same talks over and over on endless loop. For 24 years I have stood in rooms and fought for the voiceless and the unrepresented. We can talk all we want about whether or not it’s appropriate to stand or kneel at a football game, but does that even matter?

It does beg the question however, when IS IT an appropriate time to have a discussion that everyone refuses to have because it’s so uncomfortable? When is it a good time to participate in dialogue that actually leads somewhere? There are problems on both sides of the aisle. Both blacks and whites need to take ownership of that.

However, so many white people are quick to say – “Well, I’m not prejudiced, I’m being judged for the actions of others,” and wash their hands of the situation because their feelings are hurt. It’s not only your feelings that are hurt..and it’s not your actions, friends. It’s your silence. Silence is the great betrayal. It feels like you don’t care, or at least you don’t care enough to say something. You quite literally don’t have skin in the game.

Part of your privilege is that there is nothing forcing you to participate. You get a choice. That’s great for you…. but where does that leave me? Where does that leave my son? More importantly, where does that leave our country? When you are in the minority, the only way change is ever going to happen is if the MAJORITY helps.

Anger, resentment and hate only come when you don’t love someone enough to be phased by their suffering. At some point they start to self-protect. I see that in the faces/attitudes of my black brothers and sisters and it’s heartbreaking. They are worn down and feel defeated. Yet, I also know that my white friends are incredibly good people. Amazing people. They just haven’t been forced to see. Neither was I for the first half of my life.

At the end of the day, we all want the same things. We have just lacked the work ethic to get there together. It’s time to rip off the bandaid and let this wound bleed until it starts to heal.

Do I still believe in all of those things that I taught my son every day as child? I do… but I also believe that he shouldn’t have to fight so hard to be an equal. That skin color shouldn’t play a role in respect, and that he shouldn’t have to take a certain amount of abuse in order to be accepted. That’s the part of the playing field that isn’t level.

So the question isn’t whether to kneel or to stand. It’s will you speak up?
If you’ve taken the time to read this article, consider yourself educated. With that knowledge comes accountability. I pray you’ll use your powers for good.

 

Love,
Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How eating popcorn could kill you, or make you wish you were dead.

I love popcorn. I do. It’s been my favorite snack since I was a little. I’ve raised my children with this little love affair as well. Every movie night is celebrated with a great big bowl of this buttery yumminess.

Lately, I’ve been using it as my nightly snack. My son Julian will pop me a big bow full of it and I’ll eat it over a few days time. Last night was Ethan’s Halloween Orchestra Concert, so I made dinner early. By the time it was over I was starving and I was on the hunt. After rummaging through our pantry, I went upstairs defeated – resounded to going to bed hungry. As I entered my room…complete joy flooded my memory!!! I remembered I still had a half a bowl of popcorn!

Wait…did my kids get to it? Is it already gone? I was panicked, hoping the kids had not sniffed out my treats like the bloodhounds they typically are when any kind of goodness lurks within the walls of my room. Just as I was about to give up, I noticed the bowl on the floor behind my office chair and jumped for joy! “Woo hoo!!!” I cried out. Craig was already in bed and laughing he said, “What’s got you so happy?”

“The kids didn’t eat my popcorn!!! Now I’m about to get in my bed, snuggle up to my honey, and watch a movie til I fall asleep!” The lights were all out and I climbed into bed about to snarf down my bestie snack with a vengeance. Then…the thought came to me- I better go wash my hands first. I can’t stand putting things in my mouth with the thought of dirty hands. I set the bowl on the counter and went to the bathroom while I was at it, cause ain’t nobody got time to  interrupt a deep sleep because of a full bladder.

Ok….Handled my business, check. Washed my hands, check.

I grabbed my bowl of yumminess off the counter and went to shut the lights off. Just as I was flipping the switch, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Double take….was something moving in my bowl? So I turned the light back on for better inspection. I leaned my head into the bowl and again had to adjust my eyes….what is thaaaaaat?

Is that a WORM? Oh my gosh, YES!!! I continued to scan the bowl and there lied a second, but smaller worm!!! I refused to look for anymore at this point… but I can tell you from my observation,  they were the happiest worms I have ever seen. They were practically dancing all over the place as they mounted the various kernels of popped heaven clouds. Soooooo GROSS!

Now a word of warning, I’m not typically a cussing type person – however I reserve the right to belt out profanities in times of extreme fear, extreme pain or creepy crawlies in my food.

I screamed out, “Craig!!!!!! There are worms in my damn popcorn! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe ewe!!!!!!!!”

Craig, “the hero” comes hopping in to save the day… (he’s only got one leg) and is like,

“Whoa…those are huge!”

Grabbing his arms I was like…. “I KNOW….!!! I almost ate them! I almost ate these nasty things! What if I wouldn’t have stopped to wash my hands?

What if I would have just jumped into bed in the dark and started chowing down?!

WHAT if I picked up a kernel with a worm on it and it touched me?

Or I put it in my mouth and squished it?

Oh my gosh Craig! I could have died!

Where did these worms come from?!

I bet they hatched in the bowl! Ewe! Wait?!

I’ve been eating that BOWL for two days!

WHAT IF I ALREADY ATE SOME?

What if they are alive inside of me?

What if I ate some kernels that’s had worm eggs in them and now they’ve are hatching inside me while we speak?

What if they crawl up my throat with all of their disgusting little succor feet and come out of my nose or mouth? I almost died Craig! I almost diiiiiiieeeeeeed!”

Craig laughing at my ridiculousness (that’s a daily affair for him) tried to convince me that they must have gotten in there somehow. That they didn’t hatch. Blah blah blah.

“There’s no way dear, that one worm was HUGE. He couldn’t have gotten that big in a day.” he says.

“Craig, of course they can! They’ve been eating my popcorn!”

Sorry, I just couldn’t take his word for it. So I took to the internet. Low and behold, worms and popcorn are a thing. Even found pictures of my worms. They are the ones in the photo below. 🙁 And for your viewing pleasure I have included a video on youtube of little larvae that hatched inside a movie theatre popcorn bin. That’s what these worms look like before they fill up on popcorn. 50 shades of nasty.

The tiny worm on the left was the size of one of the worms. The second worm was the size of the one of the  far right. I want to cry right now.

I spent the entire night paranoid….thinking of how many worms I had ingested over the course of my popcorn loving life. I’m probably infested and they are swarming through my intestines as we speak.

Craig thinks the acids in my stomach would probably kill them, but I’m not convinced. I mean if they have survived pesticides, harvest, treatment and packaging facilities, transport, storage, sale and cooking at high temperatures in oil….then what are my little ole stomach acids gonna do? Nothing. I’ve probably been pooping worms my whole life. How can I even move forward after this?

This morning, all I could think about is how I can get rid of my critters.

Some ideas are as follows….(warning! DON’T try these at home – this is dangerous crazy talk)

1.Drink the equivilent of worm drano – hopefully clean all the “pipes”.

2. Drink through a firehose. Maybe the sheer force and velocity would blow them all out the back side. But then I’d probably need a colostomy bag for the rest of my life from all the damage.

3. Colonics (poop shoot irrigation) to lure them out nicely. That’s a lot of trauma for them and for me.

4. Taking deworming/parasite pills and swearing a blood oath to not to look in the toilet after doing my business until I know the coast is clear. Maybe a life time. If I so much as see a worm in the toilet….

I’m still deciding on the most effective form of treatment, but there is one thing I know for sure.

Popcorn – it’s over. We’re through. We had a good run, but you’ve crossed a line- and sometimes there’s just NO. WAY. BACK. This is the ultimate betrayal. It’s time we part ways.

Team Moms and Room Moms –  this is no longer funny. It’s traumatic and PTSD inducing.

Oh and hey God- when you were up there’s creating worlds and such, I know it’s alot. I also know that when Adam and Eve ate the apple, you had no choice but to give us thorns and weeds. And then of course, now we all have to work by the sweat of our brow –  I get it. I really do. It all just kinda makes sense, ya know?

But doing this to our popcorn? Now that’s just rude. I’m not being disrespectful God, but this has to be for your own amusement. I know you’re laughing at me. I’m sure you get bored up there with all the problems and the whining, and the evil doers…..but why you gotta do me like this? Sigh.

Love,

Dawn

PS.  Wash your hands before you eat!  Good Hygene literally saved my life! Happy Halloween. Don’t eat this if someone tries to serve it to you. You could be getting more than you asked for.

if you liked this post….read the one next for a good laugh!

Breakfast in Bed

 

 

 

 

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