By Kara Mapel, Residential Program Manager
The kitchen table is often the center of the family home. It is where families come together to tell stories, share their accomplishments, revisit their day. At Hope House, while the family dynamic may not be a traditional nuclear model, the teen moms who are part of our Residential Program can become family.
As girls from different backgrounds and cultures come together in an unfamiliar environment, they have very little common ground. However, meals have long brought people together, no matter their histories or circumstances.
So meals are important… and so is the actual table because it is functional and should lead to community. We recently realized that our kitchen table was functional but did not lend itself to building community. Our “table” was actually a series of tables placed together, creating an awkward seating arrangement that made meal time feel disjointed.
A New Table
We went on a mission to build a new kitchen table that would not only provide a much-needed piece of furniture for the house but also a tool to help unify the house. Through this process, we made a few interesting discoveries along the way!
Our new table is composed of three pieces, with each component adding to the functionality of the structure. This is just like Hope House, which includes many components that work together to help our teen moms become upstanding young ladies in the Denver community.
The Table Legs
The legs are one of the strongest parts of the table. They provide stability no matter how much weight rests upon it or how unbalanced these loads are. In the case of our new kitchen table, this support is divided between three separate legs that work together to create a solid and unwavering foundation — much like the staff members of Hope House.
As teen moms enter our Residential Program, they often come from lives that are chaotic and unsteady. The “not knowing” aspect of their lives creates an enormous and unbalanced burden on each of them, and typically they lack the support they need to bear such a heavy load.
Many of us take for granted that if we have problems, assistance is only a phone call away. This is not the case for many of our girls who have never known the luxury of consistent support.
They have learned they can not count on anyone but themselves and and that they must bear their burdens alone.
The three legs of our table symbolize “God, self and staff,” with God being the center leg; as the Bible says, “God is the center of all things.” As our teen moms progress through the program, they learn that they do not have to rely on themselves alone — they can turn to staff to help them, and even more importantly, they learn that turning to God for help is possible. These three entities work together in each girl’s life to give her the solid foundation she needs to support herself and her children as they move through life.
The Tables Stretchers:
The table stretches are something many of us don’t even notice in our lives, but the stretchers work with the legs as part of the foundation to support the structure. On the table, the stretchers look like boards that help hold the legs together, and in part, that is exactly what they do — but they also do so much more. They actually play an integral role in the support system when the burdens get to be too large for each individual leg to handle on its own. The table stretchers help the legs to share the burdens by transferring the load from one to another.
These stretchers symbolize our volunteers. These individuals do so much, such as provide food, transportation, tutoring and mentoring for the young women in our Residential Program. They may not provide the direct support the girls require, but they do provide the ancillary strength for our staff members, helping to transfer the loads from one leg to another.
The Table Top:
The table top is the most noticeable feature of the kitchen table. Highly versatile, it is where family members come together to be nourished by the generous bounty that the Lord provides; it is the place where students finish their GED homework; it is where they study for college exams. It can be a place of fun where games are played and a place filled with emotional stress when difficult conversations or punishments for indiscretions are addressed.
The table symbolizes the very place where life happens at Hope House of Colorado… a place where our teen moms can grow and become the best that they can be through support, encouragement, spiritual enlightenment and a community. The table is home!