Family Promise works with families, only families. This distinction signifies the community that permeates every single aspect of what we do, and the love that is moved into community action in our midst. From the family that develops between the volunteers and guests, the family that develops among the guests, to the individual families who are finally able to have hope for a bright future, Family Promise is changing the world one family at a time.
As I drove along with a young mother and her infant in the Family Promise van she was sharing the insurmountable odds that she felt were stacked against her. From a history riddled with trauma and abuse, to a present filled with the uncertainty of being a homeless single mom, she was near tears trying to figure out how it could possibly get better. I just listened because really sometimes that’s all we should be doing. She said “I just don’t have anybody…. no family to count on….except for the Family Promise people… I guess they are my family.” She went on to get a bit more positive when sharing the kind words and actions of the volunteers at the churches who had eagerly embraced the two of them into a hodgepodge family, full of love and tons of incredibly different people. The only family she had was a group of people who decided to show up and care about someone they had never met.
We as a staff are also able to watch the family that develops with all guests in the program. One of our graduates says frequently that it is “family promise, not individual promise” reminding families in the tense moments of sharing a somewhat chaotic space that they are in this together. The families crash together here bringing bursts of love and affection, but also storms of tension, hurt feelings, and annoyance with one another. As a collective group they take on the characteristics so many of us experience in our families. Yet, even with the struggles presented by community living and fights that have happened they stick together. Family Promise graduates have attended birthday parties for guests still in the program even if they had a difficult relationship with them. Graduates who entered prickly and unapproachable come back to give hugs and offer encouragement to guests still in the program.
Perhaps most importantly Family Promise gives just that a promise to families that we will walk alongside them to a brighter future. As we watch families grow in our midst it is remarkable to watch them begin to dream. They dream about a future that is bigger and brighter than what they could have imagined prior to Family Promise. With the sometimes overwhelming love and support of an entire community behind them the world is changed one family at a time.