If you never need to make use of the services provided in your community for financial assistance, mental health counselling, employment coaching, childcare, subsidized housing etc. congratulations. You’ve been fortunate enough to have your needs met both as a child and into your teens, and once in a position to make decisions about your own destiny, apparently you continue to make good ones.
For many however, the circumstances they were born into differed and the supports they had growing up which shaped their thinking and ability to make knowledgeable, positive decisions just wasn’t in place. When you sit down and listen to people tell their tales and hear first-hand their life stories, you come to appreciate the ongoing struggle that they face on not only a daily basis, but on an hourly basis.
Sometimes I admit that I sit and wonder why someone I’m listening to can’t see the situation as I do. If they’d only do what I’d do in the same situation the problem would soon be resolved; a barrier removed. Yet the choice they decide on is one which I can predict with a high degree of accuracy is not going to resolve the problem whatsoever and may even escalate things, compounding the initial challenge with additional issues. Oh if only everyone were as clever as me!
Of course I’ve become wiser over the years listening to people and taking what they say, massaging the information I receive and returning it back to them to make their own decisions and perhaps build on resolving this one issue so they can work on others. What I’m giving is perspective, an objective opinion, options, talking about foreseeable consequences and resisting the urge to tell people what to do. It’s tempting of course! Better however to ask people in the end what they plan on doing; after all, if they make a good decision it’s theirs to feel good about and if they make a decision that turns out bad, it’s their learning opportunity.
Let’s face it, sometimes, “Life” happens. You know, the things that happen to us all that we couldn’t have predicted but have to respond to in some way. Make no mistake, these things do happen to us all. So why is it then that when unexpected and unpleasant things happen, not all of us respond in healthy, productive ways? In other words, why do some people make better decisions than others when faced with the same events?
It goes back to the 2nd paragraph; right from the time we were born and well into our teens, some of us didn’t get the good parenting, mentoring, leadership, guidance, support, direction, teaching and support that is so crucial to developing the skills needed later in life when we have to make our own decisions. You might think that having such a setback might excuse someone’s poor choices as a youngster but as they move into adulthood the lack of good building blocks early in life can’t be used as excuses any longer.
The reality is that the circumstances in which many adults are in now are directly proportional to the circumstances of their upbringing. A family living in poverty – and I take the liberty of painting with a very broad brush here – has economic restrictions. A lack of financial resources limits opportunities for their children to participate in activities where children can socialize at the same level with other children from affluent or middle-class environments. They fall behind. They get less support in learning basic life skills; money management, goal setting, they find out less about education and employment opportunities which hinge on higher learning.
Now as adults, I admire the sheer resilience many of those receiving social supports have. Somehow through it all there remains for most a desire to improve not only themselves but the lives of their children. They still have hope. They may not use cover letters, those resumes might have spelling and grammatical errors, but they don’t give up or give in. They keep trying. They will only stop trying as it turns out if they keep getting told they can’t, they never will, it’s hopeless, they are a failure. Hear it often enough and they’ll believe it. So why can’t the opposite be equally true?
Hang on second…is that it? Is that a simple starting place? Is the key to surround a person who’s had nothing but poor mentoring and a lack of supports with positive, helpful, inspired and empowering people? How long would it take to see results? Months? Years? Never? I don’t believe it would be never, but it might take a long time. Then again, not everyone has the same problems, the same degree of difficulty nor the same number of issues.
Granted there will be those who despite all efforts will always need social supports and financial aid. While they need supports in place, unfortunately there is an extremely small chance of them becoming self-sufficient. There are also those at the other end who will pull themselves up with or without needing much help as they have the skills. However, in the middle are the vast majority of folks receiving some kind of support and if they get it they progress, and if they don’t they regress.
Want to make a difference? Become a mentor and/or helper or back those who are.