The Struggle

My earliest childhood memory of struggle was age 8.  I came home from school to find our belongings out on the curb. Of course I didn’t know what was going on, but was later told by my mom and dad we’d have to find another place to stay. I still didn’t understand what happened and why someone would put our things in the street for people to see and possibly steal. Suddenly, I was faced with the reality of life and how some people are treated. Unfortunately, this was not the only time we would be evicted and move around to different places, but it was the last time I saw our furniture out on the street. At around age 10 or 11, we moved in with my aunt and my two cousins.  We stayed in my aunt’s basement with our t.v., clothes, some of my toys and other boxed belongings. Our other furniture was in storage.  We made the best out of this temporary situation and my parents tried to make it feel like a home.  While I was grateful for a place to lay my head and thankful to not be with strangers, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t maintain our own place. My mother and father worked full time and we still couldn’t pay rent or utilities. How could this be? We eventually got on our feet, moved out of my aunt’s basement and got our own place; rent to own, but there would still be a struggle to pay bills. My father stopped working, so my mother was the only one with a full time job. My dad worked odd jobs here and there working on cars, fixing electronics and manicuring yards, but as you can imagine, this is not enough to support a household.  By the way, we didn’t qualify for government assistance because my mom made “too much” for a household of three. (lol).  So, the electricity would get shut off at times, we’d be behind on rent and car payments. When I became of age to work, I would try to help with the utilities and food if needed.  My father eventually got a full time job, but by that time it was too late to catch up on our electric bill and the lights and water were off for good.  We got three 5 gallon buckets and our routine was to fill them up with water at my aunt’s house so we could flush the toilet, wash dishes and ourselves. I absolutely hated this. I was embarrassed and at times angry that this was our way of life.  I had to boil water to wash my face and body, and could only take showers when I was at my aunt’s house.  I thought, “Is this life?” “You grow up, get a job, work hard and barely get by.”  Even with all this going on, I still helped my grandma and her church with feeding and serving the homeless. God was showing me that it could be worse.  I also worked at a non profit organization that helped low-income families and seniors.  I didn’t know such organizations existed and I thought, this was a great idea.  It was then that I knew what I would do in my life.  I didn’t want to see a family go through what we were going through and I vowed that I would never go through this in my future. I decided I was going to start and manage my own non profit to help the homeless and people on the verge of homelessness. I look back now and know that my experience was necessary in preparing me for my future. I understand what it’s like to work your ass off and still not be able to make ends meet. I understand feeling ashamed and/or embarrassed to ask or need help. I know the hurt of someone commenting or making light of your situation for their entertainment. I know that everything is not black and white and that each situation is unique and personal. I keep my past struggles in the forefront of my mind as motivation to never experience it in my future and to keep other families from experiencing it as best I can.  I was made to realize at an early age you can’t trust someone to fight for you if they’ve never experienced a fight themselves.  I created the Unity of Life Foundation to fight for those in the midst of the struggle and to show that someone knows what you’re going through and cares.