HealthLink: A Link to Hope
On September 21, 2016, HealthLink celebrated its 15th Anniversary at Twining Hall in Feasterville in the company of over 100 friends - both old and new. One of the highlights of the evening were words from a HealthLink patient about the profound affect HealthLink has had on her during a difficult time in her life. You can read the full transcript here.
Tonight I want to tell you why HealthLink’s work is so important. I want to tell you why a visit to HealthLink is not just clean teeth for another six months, or a filled cavity. Those are very important, but, perhaps, even more important is HealthLink’s role in the hope that it gives for those of us who are striving as hard as we can to better ourselves and our families. Let me tell you part of my story—my journey from being a confident, bright, young mom with a middle-class upbringing to being immersed in poverty and inches from despair. As I tell my children, “Don’t worry, the story will have a happy ending.”
When I grew up in my middle class lifestyle; when I married an intelligent, young man; when we both went to graduate school; I thought we had a bright outlook in life. We were not daunted by the prospect of tight finances in graduate school; we were prepared to make sacrifices for our long-term goals. We had hope in our hearts.
Graduate school was challenging and anxiety ridden, but it was always hopeful. I learned some important things—and many things that I now realize were not quite so important as I thought they were at the time. But the chief lesson I learned was the importance of persevering through difficult situations, at which I discovered I was quite good.
Now, fast forward six years, three states, and a lot of education later. Shortly after the birth of our third child, we found ourselves underemployed, and, very quickly, staring poverty in the face. Yikes! I wasn’t planning on that. “Well,” I thought, “This will be difficult, but it’s nothing that a little perseverance can’t get us through.”
I was right; it was difficult. My husband, who had two master’s degrees, took a job at a fast-food restaurant. We figured he would work there for a couple of months until he got hired at a long-term job with a living wage, while I continued to take care of a baby, a two-year-old, and a five-year-old in half day kindergarten. We had no family in the area to watch the kids, so I couldn’t really work.
After several months, my husband didn’t land a living-wage job, so I pulled up my bootstraps and made myself a new schedule: Mondays, teach private art lessons with kids in tow, Tuesdays work as a Bible study nursery worker with kids in tow, Wednesday and Friday, visit the food pantry with kids in tow; and we were stuck at home every afternoon for naptime, during which did my domestic chores and figured out how we were going to keep going if my husband’s $9/hr job continued. Things were hard. I was becoming exhausted, as if taking care of the needs of three young children weren’t exhausting enough without the added jobs and stress of providing the for most basic necessities of life.
What they don’t tell you about living in poverty, and what I never guessed, is that poverty is utterly demoralizing. You can’t just pull up your bootstraps and tighten your belt. It takes more than just perseverance. It’s demoralizing. My husband’s inability to find a job in his field or even a better paying job outside of the restaurant industry for two years was a punch in the gut. Not only could he not work in an industry that took used of his gifts and training, but he couldn’t even earn enough money in any field that would hire him. Disappointment lead to frustration and melancholy. The irregular work shifts and work days of the restraint industry eroded at his emotional equilibrium. The shame of not being able to provide for his family drove him to despair. Between my husband’s despair, his irre