The Winter Coat

It was a bit mild today, compared to yesterday, he mused as he walked briskly down the sidewalk.  He was making his annual visit to the homeless youth shelter.  As he was approaching the nondescript building, he noticed a young woman sitting on the steps.  She wasn’t wearing a coat.  Instinctively, he thought of the coats he was going to donate to the shelter.  There had to be one that would fit her.

He went over to her and she watched him warily.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “I won’t hurt you.  It’s cold and you’re not wearing a coat.  I’m on my way to the shelter to drop off some coats and clothes.  I think I have a coat here which I could give you. ”  He set down the bags and searched through one with the coats.  He spotted the black coat with the hood and took it out.  He handed it to her.  “Try this on,” he suggested.

At first she hesitated and then she took it from him, stood up and put it on.  It fit perfectly.  “Thank you,” she said as she pushed her cold hands deep in the pockets.

He smiled.  “You’re welcome,” he said.  Then, he held out his hand.  “I’m Jake.  What’s your name?”

She took his hand.  It felt small and cold in his.  “Daisy.”

“Daisy, could I take you to the coffee shop down the street for a hot chocolate and sandwiches?”

Again, she hesitated but he sounded so kind and she was very hungry.  She nodded and came down the steps.

“Wait here,” he said.  “I’ll just go and drop off these things and I’ll meet you back here.”  He hurried off and five minutes later he was back.  She was still there.  Relieved, he started down the sidewalk and she fell into step with him.  They didn’t speak.  There was plenty of time for that, he thought to himself.  She looked to be in her mid-twenties.  Homelessness among the youth was nothing new here in the city but it still troubled him whenever he encountered one of them in the street.

The coffee shop was buzzing as usual but they managed to find a table at the back in a corner.  He helped her off with her coat and then removed his.  It was nice and warm inside.  Daisy looked around.  He studied her.  There were so many questions he wanted to ask her but he had to go slow.  “You should try the hot chocolate topped with whipped cream,” he said, breaking the silence.  She looked at him.  What beautiful eyes she had.

“Why are you being so kind to me?” she asked.  “What’s in it for you?”

He wasn’t offended at all by her questions.  “I have no ulterior motive.  I just want to help you.  What I get out of it is knowing that I am making a difference in someone’s life.”

His answer seemed to satisfy her.  Just then the waitress came and took their orders.  As he suggested, she ordered the hot chocolate with whip cream along with a turkey sandwich.  When the hot chocolate came, she took a sip and licked her lips.  She looked over at him, her eyes shining.  He smiled.  “It’s very good, isn’t it?”

She nodded and smiled for the first time.  What a lovely smile she had.  It made his heart skip a beat.  They ate while in the background voices mingled with Christmas music.  “Do you usually donate to homeless shelters?” she asked.

“Yes.  I collect donations from my church at Christmas time and drop them off the week before Christmas Day.”

“What church do you go to?”

He told her.  “We had our Christmas concert last Saturday evening.  Afterwards, we gathered in the hall downstairs and had treats.”

“Sounds nice,” she said, a bit wistful.  “I used to go to church but stopped after I ended up on the streets.”

“Daisy, how did you end up on the streets?” he asked gently.

“I lost my job and couldn’t afford to pay my rent.”

“How long have you been homeless?”

“About three months.”

“What about family?”

“My mother died when I was ten and my father died a couple of years ago.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“Do you have other relatives you can go to for help?”

“No.”

“What about a homeless shelter?”

She shook her head at once.  “I have heard a lot of terrible things about shelters, that they are dangerous places, full of drugs and drug dealers, that people will steal your shoes, and there are bedbugs and body lice.  I would rather take my chances on the street.  I just have to find a different place each night and be careful.”

“Daisy, you can’t remain on the streets.  It’s cold and it isn’t safe.”

She shrugged.  “It’s all I have.  I have no where else to go.”

He thought about it for a moment and then he heard himself say, “You have another option.”

She stared at him.  “Another option?”

“Yes.  You can stay with me until you find a job and a flat of your own.”

“You want me to stay with you?”

“Yes.  Just until you get back on your feet.  It’s better than sleeping on the streets.”

She mulled it over.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes.  You’ll have a room all to yourself.”

She thought about it some more and then she said, “All right.”

“Good.  After we leave here, I have one more stop to make and then we go home.”  He believed that he was doing the right thing but he doubted that Siobahn would agree.  Speaking of Siobahn, she was supposed to be popping by his flat tomorrow evening.  He would definitely have to make new arrangements.

Daisy and he talked about other things.  He learned that she was twenty-four and had graduated from a two-year college with an Associate degree.  She had been working at a computer firm when she got laid off.  Job hunting had been horrendous and unsuccessful.  She soon got behind in her rent and was evicted.  During the time she was homeless, she read the job ads to see what was available.   There were charitable places where she was able to shower and get free toiletries.   “Things could have been worse, but somehow, I managed to survive.”

“I think we can thank God for that,” Jake said as he helped her on with the coat before putting his on.  “He has been watching over you all this time.”  They walked out of the warm place and into the biting cold.  The temperature seemed to have plummeted within a short space of time.  Taking her by the elbow, he hustled her to his car which was parked in the parking lot of the shelter.  He opened the door and she got in.  He slid in behind the wheel and after he started the engine, he turned on the heat.  It felt good to be in the warm car and she settled against the leather seat and gazed out of the window as they left her life on the streets behind.

He turned on the radio so that she could listen to the Christmas carols.  He stopped at the grocery store and came back with two bags which he put in the trunk.  Fifteen minutes later, they were riding up in the lift to his flat.  She took one of the bags from him so that he could unlock the door.  After she stepped inside and he locked the door, the light in the foyer was turned on.  He took the bag from her and set the bags on the ground.  He helped her off with her coat.

“Where’s the bathroom?” she asked after removing her boots.  She kept on the socks.

“Let me show you,” he offered.  He led her through the living-room and into the hallway.  He opened the second door on the left and switched on the light.  “Here you go.”

“Thank you.”  She smiled at him shyly before she went inside and closed the door behind her.

While she was in there, he hung up the coats and busied himself with going the electric fireplace going, packing away the groceries and making sure the bedroom was in order.  He was in the living-room when she joined him.  “I’m going to put up the Christmas tree now.  Would you like to help me?”

She smiled, nodding.  He went and got the boxes and he set up the tree.  It was a tall, white Christmas tree.  She stared at it because she had never seen one like it before.  It looked like its branches were covered in snow.  It was beautiful.  She helped him to string the red and silver ornaments on the tree.  Then, he reached up and stuck the star at the time.  Both of them stepped back to admire their handiwork.  “Now, for the lights.”  He switched off the foyer light and the lamp in the living-room and plugged in the tree.  It lit up and so did her face.  “Only the presents are missing,” he said.  “I will take care of that during the week.  Make yourself comfortable while I put on some music.”

She sat down on the sofa and looked around her.  It was a warm and stylishly decorated room, very masculine and very modern.  It needed a female touch.  She could imagine putting a poinsettia on top of the mantle-piece to give that area a little color and a vase of flowers on the center table.  “You have a beautiful place,” she remarked when he sat down beside her.  “It’s so warm and cozy.”

“Thank you.  It’s like a sanctuary for me.”  It felt different and nice having her there.

She seemed relaxed and began to ask him questions about himself.  They talked until it was time to go to bed.  “I put a pajama shirt on the bed for you.”

“Thank you.  I used to have my own clothes when I first went on the streets but they got stolen when I was in the shelter.  All I have are the ones I’m wearing and in my carry on bag.  They don’t smell because I went to a laundromat where homeless people get to wash their clothes for free.”

“I have a washer and dryer here which you are more than welcome to use.”

She got up from the sofa and went into the bedroom and changed into the pajama shirt.  It reached just above her knees.  She went into the bathroom to brush her teeth.  When she went to the living-room to say goodnight to him, she was surprised to see him spreading a blanket on the sofa.  She frowned.  “What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m sleeping on the sofa.”

She shook her head, protesting, “I can’t ask you to sleep on the sofa while I sleep in your room.”

He smiled.  “You didn’t ask and I insist.  You will sleep in there and I will sleep out here.  I hope you have a good night’s sleep.  Goodnight, Daisy.”

“Goodnight, Jake.”  She turned and walked back to the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Alone, he pulled back the blanket and lay down on the sofa.  He wore a tee shirt and a pajama pants.  It felt strange sleeping out here but he didn’t mind at all.  He thought about Daisy and how thankful he was that he was able to help her.  She didn’t have to spend another night on the streets.  She had a roof over her head and a warm bed to sleep in.  Yes, God had been good to her.  He closed his eyes and thanked Him.

The next morning he woke up to the smell of breakfast and he sat up, rubbing his eyes.  He glanced at the clock over the mantle-piece.  It was half-past eight.  His guest was an early riser.  Usually, he would be in bed until ten on a Saturday morning.  He sat up and stretched.  Throwing off the blanket, he got up from the sofa.  As he was folding it up and straightening the cushions, Daisy came into the room.  She had already had a bath and was dressed.  She smiled at him.  “Good morning.  Breakfast is ready.”

“Good morning.  Did you sleep well?”

She nodded.  “I slept like a baby.  How about you?”

“I had a good sleep too.  I’ll go and take my shower now and join you.  Thanks for making breakfast.”

“It was the least I could do considering what you have done for me.”

He took up the blanket and went into the bedroom.  The bed was neatly made and the pajama shirt was folded and lying at the end.  He put the blanket away in the cupboard, got himself underwear and clothes before heading into the bathroom.  After brushing his teeth, he took a quick, hot shower.  She had just finished putting the plates on the table when he went into the dining-room.  Breakfast consisted of broccoli and cheese omelet with tea, orange juice with slices of oranges, strawberries and blueberries.  The omelet smelled and looked delicious.  He couldn’t wait to bite into it but he said a prayer first.

Over breakfast, they discussed what they were going to do during the day and decided that they would go to the shopping mall.  After breakfast, Daisy washed the dishes and then got ready to go on the road.  “Thank you for breakfast,” Jake said to her as they his place.  “I enjoyed it very much.”

She smiled.  “I’m happy you did.  While I’m staying with you, I’d like to cook for you.”

That sounded good to him.  It had been a while since a woman cooked for him.  The last one to do that was his mother when he had come down with the flu a couple of years ago.  It was really nice having breakfast with Daisy this morning.  She seemed to have settled in very nicely.  They spent the morning at the mall and then they went to an Italian restaurant for lunch.  Afterwards, they drove around the city, stopping to look at the Christmas displays in the store windows before spending a while at the skating rink to watch others skating.  The sun was setting by the time they returned to his place.  They spent the evening watching Christmas movies while eating the delicious stew chicken she made.

The following day he went to church while she remained at the apartment, making lunch and doing the laundry.  It felt good to be useful again.  When Jake got home, lunch was ready and waiting on the table for him.   During the week, while he was at work, she searched the Internet for job openings and sent in her resume which she had updated, using Jake’s address as he had advised her to do.

After applying to tons of jobs, she finally got one response.  She had an interview but didn’t want to say anything to Jake as yet.  After he left for the office on the Wednesday, she got dressed in the suit he bought for her.  She planned on paying him back for it as soon as she could.  It looked rather nice on her.  She pulled her hair back in a bun and wore no make up except lip gloss.  She called for a taxi and left, her heart racing.

The interview went very well and she was hopeful.  A week passed before she got the call informing her that she had gotten the job.  She was so excited that she couldn’t wait to tell Jake.  When she heard the key turn in the lock, she rushed to greet him, her heart racing and her eyes sparkling.  They were going to celebrate tonight with a candlelight dinner.  The door opened and she stopped short when she found herself staring at a tall, slender blonde who looked just as surprised to see her.  She went in and closed the door behind her.  She looked Daisy up and down.  “Who are you?  And what are you doing in Jake’s apartment?”

“I’m Daisy.  And Jake is letting me stay here until I can get back on my feet.  Who are you?”

“I’m Siobahn, his girlfriend.  I see he forgot to mention that to you.  How long have you been staying here?”

“A couple of weeks.  I had no place to go so Jake brought me here.”

Siobahn rolled her eyes.  “I should have known.  Do you think you are the first charity case?  I’ve warned him about taking in strays.  Why don’t you do yourself a favor and find somewhere else to stay?”

Daisy could feel the tears pricking at the backs of her eyes but she willed herself to keep them in check.  “I will pack my things and leave,” she said quietly.  She turned and went into the kitchen first to put the dinner in the oven.  She didn’t want Siobahn to see it.  She doubted that the woman knew her way about a kitchen.  It was hard to believe that Jake could be in a relationship with someone like that.  Then, she went into the bedroom and packed her things in her bag.  She found stationary in the top drawer beside the bed and wrote Jake a note which she hid in his bedroom slippers.

Siobahn was reclining on the sofa when Daisy went back into the living-room.  She got to her feet at once and followed her to the door.  “Don’t even think about coming back here again,” she told her before shutting the door in her face.  Daisy stood there for several minutes, trembling.  The tears came then.  It hurt that she wasn’t going to see Jake.  Siobahn would be waiting for him instead of her.  Turning blindly, she hurried to the elevator.  As the doors closed behind her, she felt as if they were closing a chapter in her life that she never wanted to end.

It was after seven when Jake let himself into the apartment.  He was late because he had made a stop.  He felt in breast pocket of his jacket to make sure it was there.  Tired, he removed his coat and hung it in the closet.  The light was on in the living-room and he could hear the television.  Daisy.  How he looked forward to seeing her every evening after a long and busy day at the office.  Eager to see her, he strode into the living-room, stopping short when he saw Siobahn lying on the sofa.  She sat up when she saw him.  “Hi Jake,” she said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Where’s Daisy?” he asked.  He went into the kitchen, then the bedroom and the other rooms but there wasn’t any sign of Daisy.  He strode back into the living-room.  “Where’s Daisy?” he demanded, his face glowering.

Siobahn got up from the sofa and went over to him.  She tried to put her arms around his neck but he pushed her away.  Her expression changed.  “You mean your little stray?  I sent her packing.  She had no business being here with you.”

His hands tightened into fists as he tried to control his temper.  “I’m going to look for her and when I come back, don’t let me find you still here.”

“But, I’m your girlfriend, you should be concentrating on me instead of that—that vagabond.”

“You and I are through, Siobahn.”  He took her by the arm and escorted her to the front door.

“But—But,” she sputtered, her face red.

At the door, he let her arm go and held out his hand.  “My spare key,” he said.

She pressed it into his palm and was about to say something when he closed the door.

He leaned against the door for several minutes, his mind whirling.  Where could Daisy be?  He hurried over to the closet and grabbed his coat.  In a flash he was out of the apartment and heading down to the garage.  He drove to the place by the shelter where he first saw her but she wasn’t there. He searched all of the areas close by, including the coffee shop but no sign of her.  He spent a long time searching for her until tired and heartbroken, he returned home.

He was hungry but didn’t feel like eating.  He went into the bedroom and undressed.  He sat on the bed and pushed his feet in his bedroom slippers.  He felt something in the left slipper and took his foot out.  He picked it up and saw what looked like a piece of paper shoved in it.  He pulled it out and unfolded it.  It was a note from Daisy.  He read it, his heart thudding.

Dear Jake,

Please don’t worry about me.  I will be all right, thanks to God and thanks to you.  I have the money you have given me and the coat.  I cannot tell you how much the coat means to me.  Whenever I wear it, I think about you and how good and kind you were to me.  I will always cherish it and will never part with it.  I hope that I will see you again–just to thank you in person for opening your home to me–a stranger whom you saw and had compassion for. 

Meeting you reminded me of God’s love for me.  During the three months on the street, He kept me safe and sustained me and just when the money I had ran out, you walked into my life.  I thank God for you and I will always remember the time we have spent together.  It was hard for me to leave but it was something I believed I had to do.  Please take care of yourself.  You are wonderful man with a big and beautiful heart.  I love you.  God bless you.

Daisy

He closed his eyes.  “Oh, Daisy,” he groaned.  How he longed for her to be there with him right at that moment.  The apartment felt so empty without her.  It felt cold and dismal.  He ran trembling fingers through his hair as he tried to imagine how he was get through the next few minutes without her.  He heard the front door close.  His eyes flew open.  His first thought was that it was Siobahn but then he remembered that he had taken the key back from her.  Unless she had made a copy of the spare key…He sprang up from the bed and raced into the living-room, stopping short when he saw Daisy coming toward him.

“I had to come back,” she murmured.  “I went all the way to the subway.  I watched the trains come and go.  I had no idea where I was going and then I decided to come back.  I had to come back and tell you that I got a job.  It’s not the sort of news I wanted write in a note.  I wanted to see your face when I told you.”

He quickly closed the distance between them and she was in his arms.  “Oh, Daisy,” he moaned, his eyes darkening on her face.  “I was out of my mind with worry.”

“Did you see my note?”

“I saw it after I went looking for you.”

“Was Siobhan here when you came?”

“Yes.  She told me what happened before I threw her out.  It’s over between her and me, Daisy.”

“I’m glad to hear that.  She wasn’t right for you.”

“No, but you are, Daisy.  You belong here with me.  I love you.”

She put her arms around his neck.  “I love you too and this is where I want to be.”

“Welcome home, Daisy,”  he murmured before he kissed her.

 

Sources:  Care2; NPR; Our Everyday Life; Los Angeles Times;

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Mentoring

It was Halloween.  The evening was dark and rainy.  Parents and kids, undaunted by the weather, were out tricking and treating.  As Charlene walked down the sidewalk she felt uneasy.  The atmosphere around her was ghoulish.  She hoped that Quentin was at home and worried that he might not open the door, thinking that she was a trick and theater.  Like her, he wasn’t into Halloween.  Maybe she should have waited until tomorrow to drop by his place but she was anxious to see him.  She wanted to thank him for being such a tremendous help to Martin and to invite him to his graduation.  Besides, she wanted to see him.  Her thoughts drifted back to the first time they met…

It was at a mutual friend’s housewarming party.  He was there with a female companion and she was alone.  She noticed him the moment he walked in and although she was talking to a friend, her gaze kept straying over to where he was.  At one point, when she looked at him, their eyes met and held for several minutes before he turned away because the hostess had joined his companion and him. Curiosity got the better of her and she asked her friend, “Who’s that man over there talking with Wendy?” she asked.

Rose followed her gaze.  “Oh, that’s Quentin Moore.  He’s an English professor over at Cambridge University.  “The woman he’s with is Margaret Evans.  She’s an Art professor at the university.  There is talk that they are more than colleagues.”

Charlene’s gaze shifted to his companion.  She was a petite shapely woman with short curly blonde hair and dressed in a simple but pretty summer dress.  She was comely but Charlene didn’t think she was well-matched for Quentin who towered over her.  Perhaps the attraction was more intellectual than physical.  And they were closer in age.  Quentin looked to be in his early forties and Margaret in her late thirties.  There’s no way, he would be interested in me, Charlene thought. Not when I’m so much younger than him.

Rose was watching her closely.  “You find him attractive, don’t you?” she said.  “Most women do.  Whenever I see him, I wish that my professors looked like him.  He’s sexy in an intellectual sort of way.  Nothing is more stimulating than a man who has brains and brawn.”

“It doesn’t do me any good to admire him.  He’s attached.”

“We don’t know for sure, that they are officially a couple.  It’s just talk.  They could be just friends, for all we know.”

“I hope so–”

“He’s coming over,” Rose interrupted her, making her heart lurch.  “And he’s alone.”

Charlene stood there, her heart pounding.  She turned her head just as he reached them.   This close, he was even more attractive.  She was so nervous and she couldn’t seem to get her breathing to return to normal.  He greeted Rose first and then turned his attention to her.

“Quentin Moore,” he said, holding out his hand.  He had the most amazing green eyes which seemed to be studying her face.

“Charlene Bennett,” she said, taking his hand and feeling his long fingers wrap around hers in a warm handshake.  He looked to be more in his late thirties even with the beard which tended to make men look older.  His thick brown hair was slightly tousled.  As if self-conscious, he released her hand to smooth the unruly tresses into some semblance of order, his eyes still riveted to her face.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Charlene,” he said quietly.

They stood there staring at each other, seeming to forget that Rose was there.  She watched them, amused.  “If you two would excuse me, I think I’ll go over there and see what Eric is up to.”  And off she went.

Charlene clasped her hands behind her back so that he wouldn’t see that they were trembling.  “Rose mentioned that you teach English at Cambridge,” she said.  “How long have you been teaching there?”

“About fifteen years.”

“How do you like teaching?”

“I like it very much.  What about you?  What do you do?”

“I work at an early intervention organization that supports children who are experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties.  We have a yearlong mentoring programme for them.”

“How do you like it?”

“I love it because I love children.”

“Do you need volunteers?”

“We always do.”

He looked interested.  “Tell me more about your mentoring programmes.”

She explained to him how the programmes work.  “Are you interested in becoming a mentor?” she asked, hopefully.  It would give her a chance to see him on a regular basis.

“Yes, I am.” he said.  “I have always wanted to do charitable work but just never got around to doing it.”

She was excited now.  Reaching into her handbag, she took out a business card and handed it to him.  “You can visit our website for more information and then fill out the application form.”

 

He tucked the card into the breast pocket of his jacket and smiled.  “Thank you.”

They talked for a while longer and then, Margaret joined them.  She looked first at him and then at Charlene.  Quentin introduced them.  They shook hands and were cordial to each other but the older woman’s eyes belied the pleasantness in her voice.  Charlene was sure that she detected jealousy in them.  Had she been watching them all this time and felt threatened?  Was that why she was standing here at his side as if they were joined at the hip?

“Quentin, there’s a fellow I’d like you to meet,” Margaret told him.  “Would you excuse us?” she said to Charlene.

Quentin gave Charlene an apologetic smile.  It was clear that he didn’t want to go but out of courtesy, he excused himself and followed Margaret across the room to where a short bespectacled man stood.

They didn’t get a chance to speak to each other for the rest of the night.  On her way home, she thought about him and hoped that she would see him again.  She did when he went to the centre for his training to be a mentor.  He was matched with Carson.  Carson was acting out at school because life at home was turbulent.  His biological father died when he was two and his mother remarried a year and a half later.  His step-father was abusive and controlling.  And he drank.  Carson would hang out with his friends or at the playground instead of going straight home after school.  And when he eventually went home, his step-father would beat him.  More than once Carson tried to run away from home but he would always go back because he didn’t want to be living on the streets. His step-father got arrested and Carson was glad.  However, he still continued to act up and his mother was very concerned that he would get into serious trouble.

Quentin was the perfect match for him because of their similar interests.  He discovered that Carson was very good at art and took him to museums and art shows.  When Carson found it hard to express his feelings, Carson encouraged him draw.  Initially, the pictures were dark, angry but in time they changed.  Charlene met with Quentin once a month to discuss how the mentoring and learned from Carson’s school and mother that his behavior had improved.  He was a different person.

A year had passed and the mentoring was over.  She reached Quentin’s cottage and she stopped outside to call him on her cell to let him know that she was there.  Just as she rang off, the door opened and he stood in the doorway.  She walked up to him.  “Sorry to be dropping by on such short notice,” she said.  “I had to see you.”

He smiled.  “It’s good to see you,” he said.  “Come in.”  He stepped aside to allow her to go in.

She stepped into a very pleasant and warm room.  “I came to invite you to Carson’s graduation ceremony on Monday.”  She handed him the invitation.

“I will definitely be there,” he promised, taking it.

“Quentin, words alone cannot express how grateful I am to you for the remarkable work you have done with Carson.  He is such a happy, confident child now.  Thank you.”

He placed the invitation down on the table nearby and stared at her, his expression serious.  “Is gratitude all you feel toward me?” he asked quietly.

She swallowed hard.  “No.”

He moved closer.  “What else do you feel?”

Tossing her handbag on the floor, she went up to him and put her arms around his neck.  “Does this answer your question?” she asked before reaching up and kissing him.

His arms went around her waist and held her tightly against him as he kissed her back.  They stood there kissing for a while and then he raised his head to gaze down at her.  “It took us a whole year to get to this point,” he murmured.  “Do you suppose it will take another year before we start dating?”

She smiled and said, “Not if I could help it,” before pulling his head down to kiss him.

 

Sources:  Reach Out; Chance UK

World Mental Health Day

“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.”

Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is Mental health in the workplace.

It is so important for those who are living with mental illness work in environments that are supportive and conducive to their well being and productivity.  We spent more time with our co-workers during the week than we do with our families so it helps when employers and managers put initiatives in place that would promote mental health.  A negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems, drive people to abuse substances, alcohol, skip work or perform their jobs poorly.

A friend of mine was working in a negative environment which may have contributed to her relapse.  The last time I saw her, it was obvious that she was not taking her medication.  She suffered from bipolar disorder.  She had personal issues as well which could have also been a contributing factor.  Another woman who used to work in the same department also suffered from mental illness.

You can look at people and not know that they have mental illness until something happens and they have a breakdown.  We can’t tell who is living with depression, anxiety disorders or other mental issues.  There is still a stigma attached to mental health and those suffering with it may not feel comfortable disclosing their struggles.  The platform for them to do so may not be there.  This is why World Health Day is observed on October 10 every year to raise awareness and mobilize efforts in support of better mental health.

What can you do to support mental health in your workplace?  The Mental Health Foundation offers helpful tips for those who have mental illness and for those who work with them.

1. Talk about your feelings

2. Keep active

3. Eat well

4. Drink sensibly

5. Keep in touch

6. Ask for help

7. Take a break

8. Do something you’re good at

9. Accept who you are

10. Care for others

 

You can support a colleague by:

  • Asking the person how they are doing.  Be warm and sincere.
  • Setting a time and place that is most comfortable for the person.
  • Active listening.  Give your undivided attention.
  • Managing your own feelings.  You want the person to feel that they can talk to you about anything without fear of judgment.

If your co-worker says that he or she is having suicidal thoughts or you suspect that they are thinking of committing suicide, it is very important that you encourage the person to get help.

You can keep in touch with co-worker who has been away from work by calling or sending cards.  When they return, you could help them to get back into their work routine.  For the co-worker who you see on a day to day basis, you can check up on them informally and find out how they are doing.  You can offer to help them as a mentor or coach or friendly support on an ongoing basis.  You could ask them if there is any way you can support them as they manage their condition such as spotting signs that they may have missed which indicate that they are becoming unwell.

My sister suffers from bipolar disorder.  I will never forget the time when she was having a breakdown and she just clung to me.  I held onto her.  It was heartbreaking. Mental illness affects not only those who have it but those around them.  We have to be there to offer them our love, support and whatever they may need.  We have to be sensitive to what they are going through.

 “We feel alone because due to the illness we have lost loved ones, families, friends, jobs, and it has created broken hearts & shattered dreams. We feel extremely unwanted for something we didn’t ask for and trying so hard to cope with. Believe us, if we could snap our fingers and make it disappear, it would be a wish come true. But that only happens in fairy tales.”

“Those who suffer from mental illness are stronger than you think. We must fight to go work, care for our families, be there for our friends, and act ‘normal’ while battling unimaginable pain.”

“Ignore those who say just get over it. Healing is a process.”

“The only thing more exhausting than having a mental illness is pretending like you don’t.”

“You keep a lot to yourself because it’s difficult to find people who understand.”

“This disease comes with a package: shame. When any other part of your body gets sick, you get sympathy.”

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about.”

Quotes on Mental Health Stigma by Healthy Place

 

confident black career woman

Sources:  World Mental Health Organization; Mental Health Foundation; Healthy Place;

Giving

It was one of the highlights in her life.

To organize a donation drive and then

make arrangements for the delivery

of the clothes and other items she

received from the church members

and to see the faces of the staff

when she dropped them off.

 

It was an opportunity to teach

her daughter Kayla about

caring for those who

were less fortunate.  Kayla’s

face lit up every time they

got out the boxes and went

through the toys and clothes

that they were going to give

to the women and children

in the homeless shelter.  Kayla

was more than willing to give

away her toys and books.  “It

will make them and Jesus happy,”

she explained.

 

Once Kayla went with her to the

shelter and on their way home

she asked, “Mommy, why do

people live in shelters?”

 

“Sometimes things are so bad

at home that they have to leave

and find somewhere else–a place

where they feel safe.  The shelter

protects them from harm.”

 

“I’m happy that things are good

at home, Mommy.  I am happy that

I have somewhere to live.  I wouldn’t

want to live in a shelter.”

 

She smiled.  “Yes, Kayla.  We have

so much to thank God for because

He has blessed us so now we are

blessing others.  Those who

are living in the shelters are

thankful too.  They have shelter,

food, clothes and other things

they need.  And when we help

them, it is as if we are helping

Jesus.  It is always good to help

people.  When we help them

by donating what we have,

there is a feeling that we are

doing the right thing and we

are making God proud.  God

is always proud of you when

you help people.”

 

“When I grow up, I want to

help as many children and

their mommies as I can.”

 

She smiled.  Lord, bless

her little heart for wanting

to be a blessing to others.

And thank You for showing

her that it is more blessed

to give than to receive.

 

donate_clothes_uday_foundat

The Widow

Woman, widow, mother,

poor, invisible, substandard.

Unloved, neglected, shamed.

Blamed for her husband’s

death.  Alienated by his

family.  Believed to be cursed.

 

Life for a widow

in her society is tough,

unsympathetic and

unbearable.  Suicide

seemed to be the only

relief and release from

the pain but God had

other plans.  He sent

three female missionaries

to her village.

 

They spoke to her about

a Savior who loved her.

She listened.  This God

was unlike any of her

Her gods didn’t seem to

care about her.  She had

prayed to them, sacrificed

to them but there was no

answer.  Her cries seem to

fall on deaf ears and they

didn’t try to stop her when

she thought of ending her

life but this God did.  He

sent help.  He sent these

three women to tell her

about Him.  He was the

God who is the defender

of widows.  He said, “And

let your widows trust in Me.”

 

Yes, she trusted this kind and

loving God who didn’t see

her as substandard but

precious in His sight.  He

loved her with an ever-

lasting love and promised

never to leave her or forsake

her.  Her heart filled with

love for this God and His

Son who gave His life for

her.

 

She heard the story of

Jesus had pity on the

mother whose son died.

She was a widow and had

no one to care for her now.

Jesus raised her son back

to life and the tears of sorrow

turned to tears of joy.  She

knew that this same Jesus

would have compassion on

her and care for her.

 

Now, thanks to donations

pouring into the ministry

which had sent the missionaries

to her village, she is now able to

take care of her children with

a sewing machine.  She didn’t have

to depend on relatives who didn’t

want to help her.  She depended on

the God who had saved and

transformed her life.

 

Indian widow

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

 

Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

assisted-living-care3-720

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

Asha’s Story

Imagine you are a child and your daily routine is to get up early every morning to go and pick through trash with your mother.  You and your family are “untouchables” in your society which means you are treated as outcasts, undesirables.   You don’t have many options when it comes to jobs so in order to survive, you have to pick through garbage to find plastic bottles to sell. This was Asha’s reality.

Her world was tough, bleak.  She spent her days trudging through streets and alleyways strewn with garbage, hungry because she left home without having any breakfast.  The stench of the heaps of trash and filth assailed her nostrils as she searched for plastic items that could be sold.  She sorted, graded and sold whatever she could find.

When it was time for Asha to go to school she dreaded it because she feared the rejection of her teachers and classmates.  None of the children wanted to sit next to her or play with her.  She alone with no friends.  Asha knew why the others didn’t want to be around her.  It was because she picked trash for a living.  She had no choice.  She was trapped in the cycle of poverty and the door to better future was barred to her.  Asha wanted to learn but she was afraid to go to school.

For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

When Asha’s father heard about a Gospel for Asia supported Bridge of Hope center, he encouraged her to go.  He knew that Bridge of Hope offered help to people in need, especially to those whom society considered to be the lowest of people and he knew that the Bridge of Hope Center would care for her and provide her with the things he couldn’t.

Asha showed up at the Bridge of Hope carrying a plastic bag full of school books, dressed in tattered and smelly clothes, her face dirty and unwashed.  Unlike the reception she normally received at school, Asha was welcomed by the staff.  They loved and cared for her.  They took the time to help her to keep neat and clean.  She was given a backpack to replace her makeshift book bag and then school supplies and other useful gifts.

Within a year, Asha’s life was completely transformed.  She was fast learner and developed strongly in her studies.  She no longer went hungry as every school day she enjoyed a meal at the center.   Thanks to the staff, Asha has learned how to keep herself clean and she participates in all the activities at the center.  Her Dad couldn’t be happier,  “My daughter is getting her daily needs met through the Bridge of Hope center.  Now she is having good food, and she is healthy now.  We are very happy to see her growth.  She feared to go to school, but now she is never absent from school.”

Asha no longer has to pick up trash or feel alone and rejected by teachers and other students.  Instead she thrives under the love and attention she receives at the Bridge of Hope center and is excelling at school.  The door that society had barred her from because of her background, God cleared through Bridge of Hope.   Hope for a better future was now in her grasp.   No more trading plastic bottles.  No more rummaging through garbage to maintain the family because her father was paralyzed and couldn’t provide for them.

Asha1

You can help other children like Asha to have a better life, a bright future by supporting the Bridge of Hope centre.  Bridge of Hope is reaching out to the hopeless and rejected “through education, daily meals,  character-building activities, lessons on good hygiene, and by setting positive examples of love and good morals.  There is a bridge for these children that gives them a chance to rise above the cycle of hopelessness they have always known.”

Help to give hope.  Sponsor a child today.

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“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
– B.B. King

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; The Borgen Project