It is 3am on a red-eye flight from New York to Denver an there is heavy fog settled over the Mile-High city. The biting cold of the pre-winter air provokes the escape of ominous seeping clouds of mist from the warmer streams, estuaries and lakes across the Front Range. As the pilot makes his approach, he is on edge as he knows that the runway lights are not visible and he is keenly aware that his booked flight is carrying 176 souls of all ages. His nerves are soothed and his focus narrows as he executes a series of actions directed by a community of air-traffic controllers. The aircraft breaks the ceiling and the runway lights become visible just seconds before the rubber of his landing gear make their shrieking embrace of the indifferent concrete.
Without a built in system to support his efforts, it would be considerably more difficult for the pilot to remain calm in the face of uncertainty. Sometimes, it is too much to ask that we trust our own skills and experience to get us through the challenges that present themselves each day. Even the most capable of us experience moments of doubt, pain and fear. Our fears, however, are as indifferent to our feelings as the concrete is to the planes safe landing.
We are not all so fortunate to come equipped with a transportable system of support like our pilot.
Single mothers and fathers tend to be resulted from an upbringing at the hands of a single parent. As many of us have learned from 60 Minutes, Nightline or 20/20, problems within the family institution tend to be repeated generationally. As children grow into adults and succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy of struggle they find themselves without a strong support system. It would surprise most of us though to hear that this problem, of being without a strong support system, is not relegated to single parent families. The demands of society require that as individuals we work irregular hours, more hours, for a greater number of years, and at a lower wage relative to our cost of living than the previous generation. As a result young families (single parent or not), who at one point had parents/grandparents who were retired and able to provide support through their contribution of time, have very little physical support from family.
Families today can and do offer emotional and symbolic support. However, there are times in life that we need more than a cheerleading section to help us make our way, and given the demands of society it is becoming harder for individual units within a family group to support themselves much less offer time or material to members outside of their household.
Conditions exist at any given time for your own runway to become clouded, your path in life to become littered with distractions and refuse. But only when you have a strong community surrounding you, one that is devoted to talking you through the fog and keeping the runway lights on, is it possible to see and maintain the path to which your feet have been set.
The best way to discover your own support network is to become part of a system that is working to support others.
Rob and Jess