GETTING TOGETHER AFTER GETTING AHEAD
By Erin Cox
“Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World” is a 20-week intensive program for adults with low incomes. Participants follow a set curriculum to investigate poverty, its effect on their lives and surrounding, and where they want to go in life. The course deals with budget, history, family, and other concepts and experiences. It is hard work and aimed at people who really want to stop being tired all the time from just trying to get by and start to get ahead, financially and otherwise.
As the Getting Ahead Class of 2017 is preparing for their graduation, I reflect back on my class from the previous year, many of whose members are still in regular contact with one another. During our class sessions, we created a bond with one another that we weren’t ready to sever solely because the lessons were over. A Facebook Messenger group was immediately created to allow us to communicate with one another on a regular basis. We use the platform to encourage one another throughout the week and share wonderful things happening in our lives.
I especially enjoy reading the Bible verses shared via our Messenger group. Often, the Scriptures come exactly when I need them to lift my mood or to prompt me to reflect on Who really is in charge of my life. I am reminded by Hebrews 10:24-25 that we should assemble together, stir up one another to love and good works, and encourage one another. Our Getting Ahead class has done just that. We have helped one another find work and locate resources – and offered prayers on each other’s behalves. We have shared some of our life goals and when we meet, we have the opportunity to get status updates on any progress made or encouragement needed.
Facebook Messenger has also become the central hub for planning our monthly get-togethers since our graduation from the Getting Ahead program. Someone from the group volunteers to open her home to host the other women. Sometimes the children come along too, as we realize that they also bonded during our class times last year and want to see each other. During the meetings, we share a meal and discuss the blessings and challenges in our lives. It’s great to have a group of sisters who are familiar with our stories and can celebrate even the little successes along the way.
In December, I hosted a Favorite Things gift exchange with the group. We each brought three of our favorite items to share with the group. The items varied from cosmetics and snacks to jewelry, books like The Prayer of Jabez, and other lovely treasures. Along with the gifts came explanations from the giver as to why that particular item was chosen – giving us even more insight into the minds and lives of our Getting Ahead sisters.
We are a group of dynamic women who love God and each other. We cherish the relationships we have with our family and friends. We care about what happens in our communities. We want others to be able to escape poverty as well. And we love to share our gifts, talents, and stories with others.
For the start of the new class of 2017, we – the 2016 graduates, provided the first meal for the incoming group, which one of our classmates suggested. What better way was there to show our commitment to our community and the program than to be there to welcome in the new class? As she took the reins planning a lovely meal, we fell in line behind her cooking, serving, or helping clean after the meal was done. After all, was there really a division between classes? Only if we created and perpetuated one. But doing so would have been counter-productive to the principles we learned.
Recently, we had a going away party for our shared facilitator and it involved members from all three classes: the first local Getting Ahead Class of 2015, my class of 2016, and the current class of 2017. That goes to show that the strategies learned transcend not just the session, but everyone who has been touched by the GA program.
There is comfort in knowing I have a support group whose members, despite the individual circumstances which put us in the situations we face, have learned to use proven tools to help ourselves and each other escape the bonds of poverty. Though my class graduated more than a year ago, we can continue to push, pull and encourage each other to our goals. We are all on the same journey and getting together helps with “getting ahead in this getting by world”. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Getting Ahead participants join a group that goes through the process together for at least 20 sessions over as many weeks. They and their children share a meal before the adults meet. (In Lawton, OK, a majority of the participants at The Salvation Army’s program were mothers referred by CrossRoads/Head Start, but the program is open to men as well.)
After graduation, participants continue to get together. Capt. Claudia Roseno noted that graduates of the program at other locations also do this, but usually in a formal way to go over goals and progress. She is grateful that the women in her setting decided to do it on their own and in an informal way, “We tend to underestimate the power of social interaction and fellowship as a tool and resource to break the chains of poverty. These monthly meetings serve as a motivational tool to stay ahead.”
“We share a meal and the women talk in the kitchen or living room. Often the children watch movies or play. I love that my kids can play in the back, and I can be with women who value each other. We’re just like-minded women on a similar journey, who can talk about life, think abstractly, encourage each other,” Capt. Claudia Roseno said. Although she has recently taken up a new appointment in Atlanta, GA, she shared, “I’m so thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to do this here.”