By Michelle Lussmyer (Family Coach Supervisor) and Kate Swanson (Engagement)
Safe Families for Children Wisconsin
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life; making lemonade is turning them into something positive or desirable. But what does it really take to make lemonade? Lemonade needs water, sugar, and a pitcher to contain everything. Without knowing you have all the ingredients for sweet lemonade, or feeling empowered to reach for the rest of the ingredients, it’s difficult to imagine turning that sour lemon into something sweet.
The beauty of the SFFC model and volunteer relationships is that we have the opportunity to help people in the community feel known and loved. We are able to empower families to access the tools needed to make something sweet out of lemons. Being known is invaluable to our ability to create and dream. “Our Western world has long emphasized knowledge—factual information and proof—over the process of being known by God and others. . . Yet it is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.”
Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships. Being known, truly known, makes people feel loved and safe which empowers them to dream, love, take positive risks, and grow in ways they were not able to before. By getting to know someone, and walking alongside them in relationships, both SFFC volunteers and the families we serve have an ability to co-create and become generative in a whole new way. Some of the parents we are serving have the opportunity to dream in a way they may never have been able to before because our volunteers give them a safe space and support system. With connection, SFFC allows people to be known in the community and give our volunteers and families empowerment to support each other in the pursuit of lemonade.
In Wisconsin, we recently had an 18 year old who was referred to us from a local school district. She is pregnant (due this month), homeless, and has no natural support system. This young mom has faced homelessness for most of her teenage years, and because of this hasn’t had the ability to think past ‘now.’ When this young mom was referred to us, we were able to connect her to a host family who has been able to provide a safe home for her, and eventually her new baby too!
Because of this, for the first time in her life, she is able to think about her future instead of being in a constant state of survival mode. After she got settled in with her host family, she began a nursing program at a local technical college, and she knows she has a safe place to land with her host family volunteers who she now truly sees as her family. Resource friends have been a great support to the Host Family and the mom-to-be. The Host Family volunteers and mom-to-be are quite environmentally conscious and a friend from their church gifted them with a cloth diaper starter kit, which was something the mom-to-be had always wanted to do, but didn’t think she’d be able to afford.
Last week, she was given three baby baths and was excited to be able to donate the other two to support other moms in the community! She has also been connected to family friends who truly make her feel seen, known, and loved. One of her family friends says, “it’s been an honor to know and love her! She will be the most wonderful mother and seeing her relationship with her host family grow has been very fun!” She has made some great friendships and continues to get to know more people who want to be an extended family for her and her baby. With the support and connections from SFFC volunteers, she has been empowered to acknowledge that she has all the ingredients she needs to make the lemonade!