Where to start?
The day was somewhat hectic for me because I had to leave my 9-5, pick up my best friend Kristen and my god-daughter from the train station, hit the grocery store for the food that would be served and then make it to Rowan Homes. Thankfully all of it got done and by the time we made it to the center we still had time to set up.
Once the setup was complete, only one woman sat in the room along with her daughter in the stroller. She joked about how she was perfectly fine with being the only one there because then that meant she automatically won the raffle; I laughed along with her. Although a part of me started to crumble inside at the thought of no one showing up, I reminded myself that even if I helped one woman, I achieved what I came there to do; the session would go on and if push came to shove and we needed to reschedule, then we would.
I wasn’t giving up that easy.
We began to munch on the food and engage in small talk. Little by little, more women and children began to trickle in the room and fill up the seats. We had about 10 women by the time we were ready to get the session started. In my AmeriCorps training back in Chicago, we did an icebreaker activity called “7 Facts About Me”; you write seven facts about yourself and then walk around the room, silently, and read one another’s sheets. I modified it by adding an 8th fact where they shared their dreams for their life.
We all went around the room and shared our seven facts and our dreams. I watched as some were hesitant to share their dreams; one woman asked, “well do you want us to be realistic?” and another remarked about how she didn’t know if it was something that could really happen. I looked around the room at all of these women, these women who had overcome so much–recovering substance abusers, single mothers and more. This is why I’m here. I continued to listen to their dreams of home ownership, obtaining a GED, starting a business, modeling and going to college.
By no means did ANY of these women have dreams that were unattainable. But somewhere along the line, they got discouraged and the dream seemed unbelievable.
They began to talk among themselves telling each one where they might be able to find some help with achieving their dream. One young woman voiced how she wanted to go back to school, starting with her GED and hoped that the state might be able to help. “No, you can’t do that. The state won’t support it–I already tried and they wouldn’t help me,” said a woman to her.” Another woman intervened, “I go to a GED program now. I go when the kids are in school. You can do it too, I’ll give you the information so that you can see about the program,” said another woman to her.
I intervened and explained that nothing was impossible, it just takes a little research and making good use of ones resources. If the state wouldn’t help her, then fine, we’ll find a program that will or we’ll come together and help her ourselves–but under no circumstances were we ever to view anything as impossible, under no circumstances are we ever to discourage one another. We all agreed and moved forward with the session.
We went on to discuss the value of consignment shopping and the importance of shopping within ones means. We expanded our fashion options by sharing the location (and our personal shopping experiences) of our favorite consignment shops in the city. And then the $100 shopping spree raffle to Buffalo Exchange…LOL…it was hilarious.
After the session ended and the women left, I turned out the lights to the community room and was overcome with a deep thankfulness for every obstacle I had ever encountered on my journey as a teen mother and a single parent.
My mother use to always tell me, “Syreeta, this isn’t your battle. This isn’t just for you; you have to keep going. Don’t stop.”
She always said that as I held the phone with a tear-stained face. What do you mean it isn’t my battle? I’m the one going through hell right now. I’m the only one here. I’m getting my ass kicked out here. I would think to myself.
I get it now, though. For every tear I dropped, I became that much stronger…for these women and the women I was able to help during my time at Temple. I’ll never understand why God does the things that he does, but I will always make the best of whatever the outcome is.
I hope to inspire these women to do the same.
Those dreams don’t have to remain dreams.
– Sincerely Syreeta
P.s: A special thank you Project H.O.M.E., The Rowan Homes, Isabella Fitzgerald, Kristen Bowen, Zuri Stone and Sherron Sawyer. I couldn’t have don’t any of this without you all. Kristen especially, you got on a train for the first time ever to be there when I needed you most to watch the women’s children while we held our session, and I’M SO THANKFUL FOR THAT. I love all of you!
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSOR, BUFFALO EXCHANGE, LOCATED AT 1713 CHESTNUT STREET!
– SiSy’s Here