A few weeks ago I sent a text to a friend who I hadn’t seen for quite some time. Although we’d been in touch several times throughout the pandemic, we were long overdue for a face-to-face visit. I had no idea that the timing of this text would set my schedule askew for the next few weeks in the way that it did.
My friend has lived through some significant life experiences.
In a recent incident, her driver’s licence was suspended and her car impounded. She had also just moved into her dad’s basement because of her financial struggles. This combination of events sent her into a tailspin, scrambling to make arrangements to get her daughter Darcie (a pseudonym) to school and herself to work.
Enter the chauffeur.
My husband and I took turns giving 10-year old Darcie rides to school the first week while her mom took a stress leave from work. This one-on-one time with Darcie turned out to be delightful, as she shared her first-hand perspectives on school, family, friends, religion and life in general. Pieces of wisdom on rolling with life’s ups and downs revealed how her eyes and heart have been shaped by her own young life experiences.
The next week of rides included driving both Darcie and her mom to their morning destinations. This almost two-hour excursion confirmed that not having a rush-hour commute as a part of our regular routine is one of life’s joys!
After several weeks, my friend’s licence was reinstated and her car returned.
Supporting her through that time was a reminder of how close to the edge many people live. While this wasn’t new to me—I’d spent 10 years working with families of people who are in prison, mostly from low-income households, and had also been with my friend’s family through their first years in Canada—it caused me to think again about what giving and receiving support looks like.
The support we provided wasn’t about four wheels or the practicalities of getting from Point A to Point B. It was about the conversations along the way, being patient through tears, affirming exasperation with the situation, giving hugs, and saying “I love you” in as many ways as possible. It was about listening to someone at one of the lowest points in her life and hearing how difficult it was to hit “send” after writing, “Can you give Darcie a ride to school?”
I’ve been thinking about community, family and those we lean on when things get tough. Our lives might be sprinkled with people from arms-length communities where we share the occasional experience, or people from communities that are core to our being and that we can’t imagine being without. In the give-and-take of our communities, and among those whose lives we wander in and out of, I pray that there will always be space to freely say, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”
Brenda Tiessen-Wiens is moderator of Mennonite Church Alberta.
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