It wasn’t until I was retelling the story of my recent lunch with two of Bridge Communities’ earliest clients, that the emotion of the day caught up with me and I struggled to hold back the tears. I had lunched that day with Margaret and Tracy.
Margaret and Tracy were Bridge clients back in about 1990. They lived in the same building, along with four other clients, and I have fondly remembered them over the years. That was a very special group of six women that taught me a great deal about working with homeless families.
At lunch we spent some time just reminiscing about how it was back then, and shared what life had since brought us. I was interested in what the two of them remember of the time they spent with Bridge. Did they recall that time fondly? Was it a time of impact in their lives?
One of the women told me about a difficult time for her in the program when she became pregnant. She was afraid that the rules of the program might force her out, back to a situation where she lacked housing for her and her family again. But instead, her mentor told her that she would support her, whatever her decision was. She said it was the first time in her life that someone had offered her complete support without trying to dictate the outcome.
The other woman told me about her son. He had gone to college. No one in her family had ever gone to college. She told me how difficult it was before the family found the stability of Bridge, and what a toll that instability had taken on her son. Bridge had allowed him to be a child. Then, while in the program, with help from her mentors, she made the decision to never, ever hit her children again. She decided the violence must stop with her and her children would not suffer in the same way she had.
So, here we were at lunch 20 years after their program had ended and I began to really understand what Bridge mentors had done for these families and the impact the mentors had on these clients. Lives had been changed. The simple acts of mentors had changed the outcome of lives for generations to come.
As we finished lunch, both women promised me that if I ever needed anything, I should call them. They said they would be happy to help. They did not know how much help and how much hope for the future they had already given me.
Mark Milligan is the co-founder of Bridge Communities