At Lakeside, we are so encouraged when we hear stories of how our training has impacted someone to the point that they have used the lenses gained and the skills we have transferred to them to make a real difference in their family and/or community.
Here is one story of a Lakeside Global trained individual who helped a struggling mom and her children
The story involves of one of our Lakeside training participants who was waiting to board a subway. She encountered a struggling Mom and her children in a difficult moment.
I volunteer at the Pediatric Center at Einstein Medical Center in North Philadelphia on Fridays reading books to kids – mostly preschoolers, while they wait to see their doctors. There is a cart with a collection of books from which I’m supposed to draw, but it has a limited supply with culturally diverse characters. So shortly after I started, I bought and contributed a collection of my favorites—which immediately sprouted legs & disappeared.
Again, I bought about 10 favorite books, a collection which I now carry back and forth each Friday in a Traders Joe’s canvas bag. The last book I read yesterday was Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.
Just after I had arrived on the subway platform, I could hear an adult voice screaming, a swack, a child sobbing, and more adult screaming. The adult voice sounded more primal than human. I walked towards it in another section of the platform. Circled by four children about 5, 7, 8, and 13 was a mom screaming to the sobbing child that she better not keep crying. The mom yelled, “Why do you have to test me…” The children’s eyes and others in the area were full of terror.
I did something bold.
I walked up to the mom. Before she had a chance to respond, I said “I volunteer at the Pediatric Center at Einstein. I just finished my shift, and the last book I just read was Alexander and the Terrible… It seems as if this might be one of those terrible, horrible no good, very bad days.”
The mom said “it sure is.”
As I was talking, I stood between her and the sobbing child. I put my hand gently on the mom’s shoulder to affirm and empathize with her. With that, the train arrived, and I decided that I would enter and sit close by as I believed the children might still be at risk.
As the family was sitting, I asked the mom if I could join them so that I could tell the kids Alexander’s story. Having calmed down a lot, she said sure. I put my arm around the child who had been sobbing, and next to a second child, then in full voice I recited the rest of the story to the children and the rest of the train.
As the train was traveling, the Mom and two of the other children were eating take out but listening. I finished the story, and while the Mom was distracted, I took an opportunity to whisper to the child who had been hit that she could survive these experiences. I knew it because I had had experienced my own mother’s meltdown in public, and the way I survived was to find ways to avoid angering my mom. But when that couldn’t be avoided, I would find other adults who could help me on bad days: teachers, neighbors, my friends’ moms.
Encouraging words help.
I told her that I believed in her; that she was good, kind, and strong, and that she would do great things when she grew up. The child asked me if it really happened to me. I told her, yes, many times. I shared the same message with the child sitting on my other side.
At that point, I remembered one of the books in my bag was about a mischievious little girl who kept getting in trouble. I asked the Mom if it would be ok if I gave the kids a book to take home with them. She agreed happily.
I then realized that I also had a book that described six good dads for one of the boys – telling him that he would be a terrific dad someday. I also had a book about Sonia Sotomayor who grew up in the projects and lives with insulin dependent diabetes which would be for the 13-year-old, and a book about Rosa Park’s bus for the remaining little boy. Each child was thrilled, and the 13-year-old promised to help the younger ones to read their stories.
By then, we had arrived at City Hall.
When I bought that second collection of children’s books, they were more than I could afford. (Actually the first set was as well, but I believed it was worth doing without other things so I could help the kids at the Pediatric Center.) However, I believe the real reason for schlepping those books each Friday was so that I would have them with me to give those kids yesterday.
Grace put me on that platform.
Lakeside Global Institute (LGI) gave me the knowledge about multi-generational trauma so I could speak to the Mom quietly, with respect, and know to ask her a simple question. LGI gave me the courage to step forward. I was able to pay forward the kindnesses I received as a child, ones that helped me survive my own challenging home life.
Grace enabled me to know that the children who needed those books the most were those four.
The Mom will still be stressed when they get home and in the days ahead. But, the Mom and those four kids know now they too might survive their adversity, and there are people waiting to help in a crisis. I am so grateful.
And we are so grateful…
…for her willingness to take what she has learned and step into a situation to bring peace and care to a family in turmoil.
Imagine if we lived in communities with trained individuals who were aware and active in the lives of others. Imagine these trained participants in their communities providing support and care for those who are struggling with the stress of parenting and life. A trained activist can have a huge impact by just providing care and personal support to those around them while protecting our children.
This participant provides us all a beautiful moment of inspiration to change a life by just being willing to be involved with her newfound skills and genuine care for others.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network