By most people’s standards, my childhood wasn’t great. My siblings and I grew up poor in an unstable household.
The power shut off from time to time because my parents didn’t make their utilities payments. On summer nights, it would get incredibly hot inside the house. The Michigan winter nights meant the cold was just as unbearable. I can remember several times where the water in a glass I had set on my bedside table would be frozen by midnight. We would wrap ourselves in several blankets at night and keep a candle lit to provide a tiny bit of light and heat. It was rough but we didn’t really know any different. For us kids, it was just how life was.
If the utilities were going to be off for long, my parents would arrange for us to stay elsewhere. We would stay almost anywhere that offered us a warm meal and a couch to sleep on. Often, we kids couldn’t all stay in the same place. I stayed a few nights in a girlfriend’s family basement from time to time, a youth pastor’s house, and on my grandmother’s pull-out couch. At one point, my brother and I moved into the home of a family from our church for about five months. They took all three of us kids in for another three months while my parents struggled to get back on their feet after we were evicted.
Our lives were like this for several years—bouncing between places and never knowing what tomorrow would bring. The constant moves took a terrible toll on my siblings and me. When you feel like you have no home and your family is a wreck, you go into basic survival mode. It became increasingly difficult to focus on school work. And I was not really in a place to talk about how I was feeling to many people because I feared child protective services would take us away from our parents. I’m not sure if foster care would have been better, but I knew I didn’t want to test it.
I don’t share my story so people will feel sorry for me. I share it because within the cracks of my childhood, love was always there. Love came in various forms—not all of which I appreciated at the time. Love came in big and small forms—even if all some people could offer was a hug and a message of hope. Others opened up their homes to us and listened as we broke down crying. Love was there to provide me with a place to lay my head at night. Love was there to provide me a warm meal. Love was there to comfort me when I felt like I was completely alone. I am forever grateful for those people who through the kindness of their heart gave what they could to us. Each action of love played an important role in helping me and my family through what seemed like a hopeless, never-ending situation.
I’ve learned to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open for love when it comes to fill the cracks of a life that sometimes feels broken. It might not be much, but it might be more than what you hoped for. I continue to hope because I know love is always there.