The other day I was told by a woman that I make a good “mom”. This women, many years my senior and who no longer has any family of her own; this woman, whose capacity is so real and yet hidden under years of neglect, abuse and mental health issues; this woman who sometimes can’t keep my name straight (occasionally I am called Annabelle); it was this woman who was telling me that I now function as a kind of mother to her.

It nearly reduced me to a puddle of tears on the floor. Some of the tears were born out of a real sense of gratitude: I felt humbled and moved. I will confess that some were the result of fear. How can I be a mother to her? What if I fail terribly and let her down the way she has been let down countless times before? I’m too young! I’m too inexperienced! I’m too much of a mess myself!

Throughout Scripture God is described as a “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5). God sees “the trouble of the afflicted; considers their grief and takes it in hand. The victims commit themselves to God; God is the helper of the fatherless”. (Psalm 10:14). As image bearers of God, we are invited to be a people who do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. Our utmost calling is to love God and love our neighbour, including the motherless and fatherless. I know, whether I feel up to it or not, this call is extended to me. It is extended to us.

One of the biggest challenges is to not just take care of those who look and act just like us (though those who are like us shouldn’t be left out either). My friend has been rejected by most for being “other than”. I have watched people move away from her on a relatively empty streetcar and wince at how accustomed she is to such a response. I need to consider the grief in her life, take it tenderly in my hand and get off the streetcar with her. The other challenge is to allow ourselves to be willing recipients of love: love is for all of us to give AND receive. This friend is not just asking me to do things for her; she is asking for the opportunity to do things for me. I can’t be a mother without her being a daughter.

So, I’m planning on picking myself off the floor and trying to be a mother to the motherless. I know I will sometimes fail. I’ll just try again. Kind of like how my friend repeatedly calls me the wrong name. I’ll correct her, we’ll give each other a hug and then carry on.

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