My name is Gail Marlow and I'm the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Motor City Mitten Mission. Our organization is dedicated to helping the homeless and others in need. Throughout our experiences and outreach, we have come across some remarkable people with amazing and inspiring stories. One of these individuals is a 17 year old teenager that we call, "Alex". Through no fault of her own, "Alex" was born into homelessness. In spite of the hurdles that have been placed before "Alex", she is a thriving and talented student with an optimistic and positive attitude with the hopes of helping others. With that said, the Motor City Mitten Mission is honored to announce that "Alex" has joined our MCMM team and has agreed to start blogging for us about her life experiences and growing up homeless. Hopefully her stories will inspire you to make a difference and to pay it forward!
This first blog was written by "Alex" as a speech she recently gave in front of her peers at a school assembly with approximately 700-800 students in attendance. The screen behind her had her favorite quote displayed, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” ― Sigmund Freud
"Hi! I'm "Alex" and I'm going to talk about something a little serious. I want you guys to all imagine not ever going on a family vacation, not even a camping trip. You have no minutes on your phone and the only way you can use it is when you're at school on the WiFi. I want you all to imagine you have no TV, and no license or car and the most exciting thing you get to do is go out to eat at the local restaurant in town with all you can eat fish because you're so tired of macaroni and cheese. Well this is my reality. There's so much to start with. So much i could actually talk about, but the reality is there's not a whole lot of excitement to it.
I have the love my family has to offer and the support from the ones around me. But by its basic definition my family has been homeless for the last 17 years. For example, when a normal kid my age wakes up on Christmas morning they are charging downstairs with excitement to get to whatever their parents got them. For me this wasn't the case. My parents had to receive gifts from strangers, from churches and businesses just so that we would wake up at Christmas with at least something. Well that doesn't sound all that bad, but the sentimental value wasn't there. Although I'm very appreciative from any and all the help my family has received, it just was not entirely the same.
As you can imagine, it has been very difficult for me, but I try not to tread on it too much. The choice to give up was not in my vocabulary. I had to continue living each day like nothing was wrong. Our family lived a secret for many years letting everyone know we were just a normal family doing whatever normal families do?? Although I am not sure what that is and still don’t and not sure if I ever will. So here we are, a family that has been plagued with hard finances, addiction, mental disabilities and doing the best we can as a family can to survive. I have learned more lessons about life than many of you have in this room.
So what am I doing now?
I have learned and continue to learn that one of the most important lessons is that everyone has their own definition of happiness. That's why I'm focusing on what I can do for other people because that's what makes me happy. And although I might not be a person that’s well off, I can afford to give my time and share my story. I feel it's important. For me, this is what gets me through each day. We as teenagers tend to think about who's going to ask us out and what we got for a grade on a test last hour, but we never stop to think about what a person can be going through outside of these four walls. No matter how bad the situation is or how hard it can get, when I can help others, it makes me feel better about what's going on in my world. I am always trying to bring happiness wherever I go or to whomever I talk to because I don't see much of that in my world.
So what am I thinking about now besides happiness? I Have a future in front of me.
One individual who had a heart to heart with me 2 years ago told me that having a future was possible and assured me that anything was feasible. And that's what I'm trying to focus on besides happiness in my future. Before this, I didn't really think college would ever be an option or even possible, but they opened this idea up to me. Now I know that I am able to with the continued support from my best friends and other people in my life. I have made the decision and am currently preparing to break away from this lifestyle I have been so use to, and now transitioning into what others may consider “normal”. I plan on attending college next fall and plan on studying either Psychology or Education.
I wish everyone here not to go through what I went through, but if you are or if you ever have, stand proud, believe in yourself, and remember, helping others can be your definition of happiness.
Thank you for listening to my story."