By Dacia Moore, Aftercare Mental Wellness Therapist
“I want to be a momma!” That is the slide that changed my life.
On Wednesday, I attended a lunch presentation on poverty. The speaker, Dr. Donna M. Beegle, is a former homeless woman who has successfully risen out of poverty to the middle class with an earned doctorate and financial stability.
Her presentation described how we, as community leaders/helpers can be more impactful when dealing with people in poverty. Donna, as she likes to be called, lived in generational poverty. Her parents and grandparents were migrant workers. That was the expectation she had for her life as well, but something changed her. It was a pilot program that helped her move from poverty to the middle class. Donna shares her story around the country, helping agencies and schools understand poverty, not only from her own personal experience, but also from the communication theory and resiliency theory body or research.
During the middle of her presentation she displayed a slide… “I want to be a momma.” Donna went on to explain that many people in poverty already feel hopeless about their future. They don’t expect to do better, they don’t believe they will be successful and they struggle with self-esteem issues. Since everybody wants to feel good about something, what’s left? “I may never be rich, but I know that at least I can be a good momma,” is the thinking of many women in poverty.
I was stunned. I have been struggling with the fact that a few of my aftercare clients are pregnant, again. My middle class mind was thinking, “How can you have another baby? And WHY would you want another baby? You can’t afford the kids you have now!”
But that is Donna’s point. Our clients don’t have middle class thinking; they think differently than we do, and as providers, we need to understand that.
As an example, before having this “ah-ha” moment, I may have responded to this client by saying “Can you afford a child right now? That may not be a good decision.”
Now, after my ah-ha moment, I may respond with “I understand you want to make a difference with somebody and matter. Let’ talk more about that.”
Do you see the difference? Response one was judgmental, not at all what my client needs.
Response two is more understanding and accepting; it keeps the door open for more conversations.
As providers we need to understand the culture of poverty and not be so quick to judge or rescue.
I’m working with an agency to bring Donna back to KC and will make sure that we all have the opportunity to attend. I sure hope she returns, I could use some more “ah-ha” moments.