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Single Parenting

Dare to Be a Friend

Why are we afraid to help other parents in need?

The ringing phone woke me up. Barely awake, I looked at the clock. Who would be calling at 1:30 a.m.? I wondered, with a slight bit of panic. I picked up the phone and heard nothing but weeping. Then a choked voice came through. It was Jennifer,* one of my closest friends. "Barbara, would you please meet me at the police station?" she sobbed. "It's Scott.* He's been arrested for possession of marijuana." Scott, Jennifer's son, had been in trouble with the law before and I knew the situation was serious.

I got dressed and drove to the police station. But when I got there, I sat in my car, afraid to go in. I tried to fight my irrational fear of getting involved. "Oh, God," I prayed, "I need your strength to get out of this car and your wisdom to know what to say?and what not to say. Help me be a supportive friend." Finally, I got out of the car and walked into the station. Jennifer, eyes red from crying, stood in the hallway.

We sat down and Jennifer's words tumbled out. "Barbara," she said, "I know I've been a good mother. A day doesn't go by that I don't pray for Scott. But I'm so weary of the single-parent journey. I just don't know what else I can do for him."

As she spoke, I started to realize why I'd been afraid to go into the police station. Jennifer was a dedicated mother and a strong Christian. Scott had been involved in a youth group at their church. Jennifer was an aware, concerned, caring parent, and yet her son was in trouble. If this could happen to her family, what was to keep it from happening to mine? That feeling I'd had in the parking lot was the fear that if I got too close, Jennifer's crisis might somehow "rub off" on my family.

Thank God he pushed me out of my car and into the station. How many times had I been the one needing a friend who wasn't afraid to stand beside me in a time of pain? How many people had dared to get involved in my life and in doing so showed me the love of God? This was a chance for me to show that love to another struggling parent and, thankfully, God didn't let me shy away from it.

We parents, especially single parents, need each other. As our society becomes more and more individualistic, it's essential that we work even harder to support one another and care for each other. Doing that demands that we take the chance to be involved in another family's crisis. It means taking a late-night phone call or even offering our help before it's asked for. It involves putting aside any judgment of our friends' short comings and our own prideful feelings of "this won't happen to me" and replacing those thoughts with God's compassion.

It also takes the courage to ask for help when we need it. So many of us believe we can make the parenting journey on our own. Leaning on someone else or asking for advice feels like failure. But when we trust one another with our burdens, we allow God to touch us through our friends. We allow them to be bearers of his care and comfort.

Jennifer needed me that night at the police station. I'm so glad God helped me overcome my fears and get involved. While the crisis didn't end that night, both Jennifer and I knew that God was at work in our lives.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com. To respond, e-mail bschil4150@aol.com

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