The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
I've always considered myself to be a pretty accepting person. What that means to me, however, has radically changed in the two years I've been reading and reciting that mission statement.
My definition of accepting others now goes a bit like this: "Everyone is giving this life the best they've got and sometimes their best just doesn't cut it. So, let's stop judging each other, OK?"
I see "someone's best" as the ability to hold a job, handle responsibilities and clearly weigh pros and cons within an array of variables. My theory is that the vast majority of those variables are out of your control - like upbringing and mental health. For many people, physical or mental abuse is a major factor in creating their best. For others, their best is repressed by judgments and prejudice.
For example: A 19-year-old black man used his debit card to make a $350 purchase at Barneys in New York City. Undercover cops detained him, asking, "How could you afford a belt like this?" He was a work study student at college, where he studied engineering. He just got paid.
And what about the single working mother who made headlines last month? She let her 9-year-old daughter play at a local park when she went to work her shift at McDonalds. With no family support or affordable childcare, the mother was arrested and lost custody of her daughter for alleged neglect and endangerment. Or the California teacher who lost her job last year? She called police three times one weekend because her husband was threatening her. That next Monday, he invaded the school parking lot, forcing to put the school on lockdown. He was arrested, but she was fired from her job because of his actions.
Each of these people tried their best and circumstances outside of their control stacked the odds against them. What if just one person attempted to understand what was really going on? All of those stories could have had a happy ending.
The culture of the YWCA forced me to see "accepting others" in this light. "Promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all" is a rallying cry. It's a call to action to stop judging and start helping.
We passionately strive to break down the societal barriers to equality - issues like racism, unequal pay for women and the stigma attached to domestic violence victims. This is the foundation on which the YWCA was built. Whether a victim of violence or a victim of circumstance, our programs provide the chance for a fresh start.
Each person who comes to us for service is a canvas of colors - decorated by circumstance and decisions. Naming and addressing each individual shade of their life is where change happens and growth occurs. We change and improve lives by forcing people to look at themselves and determine the direction they want their lives to go.
Our mission statement isn't just corporate jargon. For us here at the YWCA it's an invitation for self-reflection and a directive to care for others.
Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Options can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.