Yesterday I went to the Fayetteville DHS office to turn in some documents for Eliot’s medicaid. When I left, I was a different person than the one who had arrived just minutes before.
On any busy day, look around this white-washed building and see an environment that calls for every feeling but comfort. Posters cover all sides, threatening missed appointments and police calls upon any sign of violence. I stood in line and heard, via echoing walls and eavesdropping ears, the stories of the people around me.
He has a daughter and needs to prove that he’s the father. “Their mother is about to be released from jail, and then she’ll start drinking again and hurt those kids.” The woman who came from behind the intimidating closed door for “appointments ONLY” explained that a paternity test would be almost $200, and then taking the test to the courthouse would be another $160. He asked, “What if I don’t have the means to pay? Is there anyone who can help me?” With eyes down and head shaking side to side, she said, “No.”
She is a single mother who just graduated from college. “I think I’ve almost got a job, I just need some help right now.” She and her mother weren’t getting along, so she moved out. Her dad sends her money every month for gas and bills. She begged for an appointment with someone. “That’s not possible today. The soonest appointment would be March ___.” In my mind’s eye I reached my arm forward and prayed for her. I kept tears from pushing their way out of me. But what could I do?
Paternity tests. Bills. Custody battles. Divorce. Single moms. Single dads. Homelessness. Disability…Sorrow. Hurt. Brokenness. Pain. Hopelessness.
I left that building trying to wrap my head around this phenomenon of despair. Most of all, I tried to understand why we have been so well-off. Why have our bills always been paid on time, our rent always ready to be sent away, food in our refrigerator? We are never without. We are never left desolate.
I paused and reflected on the faces of the employees who, time after time, had to say, “No, sorry. No.” I then realized the stark difference between trusting in God to provide and trusting in DHS to provide. You don’t have to be a Social Work major to know that the system is broken. Being a Social Work major, though, I’ve had these conversations with other students, sworn that I would never work in that system. “Too broken. Too many needs and not enough resources. How could it possibly work?”
I’ve seen God provide in my life over and over and over again….more over’s than you could count. We were denied help to pay for having a baby, so we paid out of pocket. Debts were forgiven. Friends paid part of the bill. We are still making payments–but God provided. Are they not asking, and therefore not being provided for? Is it even about the asking, seeking, knocking, or pleading that gets me where I am today?
These are hard questions. My battle with prayer and my doubts over God’s heart are the continual theme and rhythm to these thoughts. Still, I have seen Him, and He has been provider. Still, I have prayed for the mom who waits. I prayed for God to provide for her, whatever that looks like. May she ask, seek, and knock on another door that doesn’t have a system on the other side, and may it open wide for her.