Meet Jessika-You’ll Never Forget Her
I’ll never forget the first day I met Jessika. She strolled into our mom’s group at the Bluford Library and demanded to know where the white woman was who could meet with her and bring her diapers. That was almost five years ago.
Jessika, as many would say, is your typical statistic. She is a young black mother with three beautiful children and another on the way. She grew up in the system and is a product of the system. Her life has consisted of one scene of abuse after the other; of one night of misuse after the next. She has learned to survive, to hustle, and to take care of herself.
When Jessika wants something you better watch out because she will get it. She is goofy and stubborn; willing to go the second mile and to befriend those others will not accept. She is always offering help to those around her and has recently enrolled in school to become a social worker. She wants to help children in the system who have experienced the same traumas she has. She also has become an advocate for housing justice, starting and spurring on a housing petition to address poor housing conditions and negligent management practices at her place of residence.
As you can see, Jessika is more than just a statistic. In fact, there can be no one on the face of the planet who is anything like her. Just meet her and you’ll understand what I mean.
To meet her, however, would require taking a drive to the east-side. This would require laying aside the perceptions and judgments that generally distance us from socializing with individuals like Jessika-beyond just kind words or professional responsibilities. This would require stepping onto the front porch of her home and getting to know who this beautifully broken woman really is. This would require entering beyond her front porch to building an authentic relationship that is based on something more than goodwill programming and services.
I don’t think either Jess or I had any idea where our journey of friendship was going to take us. There have been tears, laughter, joy, pain, police, trauma, birth and loss. We have gone two steps forward and fifteen backwards. We have circled in cycles and been sucked back into poor habits. Yet, through it all, we’ve walked through it together and Jessika knows that never again in her life will she somehow have to figure life out alone. Day by day and step by step Jessika moves forward towards hope, restoration, and possibility.
by Jessika Burris
You know that wall built oh so high
No way under, no way over,
No way through, no way around
Yeah I built it from the ground.
You know that frown I turned upside down
Penetrating happiness when I’m really feeling down.
I do that.
You know those three little angels, soon-to-be four
They’re my life, what I live for, the air I breathe.
Through the past I survived, to the present I live
The future I stride toward; I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Yeah, that’s me.
Be the Change: Ending Exhortation
Most of us are only where we are because someone believed in us; because someone saw our potential; because someone chose to invest in our future.
Someone next to you is struggling. Someone next to you is battling sickness Someone next to you doesn’t know how the bills will get paid. You don’t have to solve their problems. However, each one of us can look into their eyes, believe in them, befriend them, and battle for them to become who they were created to be.
Let’s pause long enough to look into the eyes of those around us to see what’s really going on deep within. We have the power to be the change agent of hope and triumph in their lives. We have the power to be the word of encouragement that lifts them up. We have the power to be the door of resource and connection that transitions them from poverty to thriving. We have the power to speak identity, worth and purpose. We have the power to love.
I encourage us all to link arms with those around us. Let’s choose to believe in them, to befriend them, to battle for them, and to see them become all they were created to be.
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