Lori is always smiling — and her beaming is something well-known around the Mission. She sees it as a valuable asset, allowing her to encourage others when they’re down, and to pick herself up on hard days. And there have been been many hard days.
Family brought her to Colorado from her home state of California just a few years ago. She came to work as a live-in caregiver for her ailing mother. But when her mom was placed in a nursing home last year, Lori was suddenly displaced.
Lori had a hard go of it — struggling with alcoholism, depression and hopelessness — but these days she’s doing well and working hard to improve her life. Since she came to the Mission last year, she’s become active in Work Engagement, attends church and goes to 12-step meetings. She’s also enrolled in a Careers in Construction course to gain experience that might soon lead to gainful employment. She’s fully engaged and still smiling — walking the road back to a renewed and fruitful life.
We spoke to Lori recently about family, loss and the gift of a smile.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from California originally. I moved to Colorado Springs to take care of my mother; lived with my brother, brought my son. … They put my mom in a home, and she’s since passed. Once she went to the home, my brother kicked me out.
How was life in California?
Life was good in California. My grandparents pretty much raised me, because my mom was always working. My parents got divorced when I was 3 and my dad died when I was 13. … Later on, I was a single mom. My kids are awesome.
What was it like being a single mom?
It was OK, because back then I ran seven OBGYN doctor offices. I did all of their coding and billing. So I worked and my mom watched the kids. Financially, it was OK because I was making $30 an hour. But it all changed when I came here.I wouldn’t mind doing that kind of work again, but I just haven’t pursued it here.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Right now it’s coping with being homeless, because it’s a hard thing. … And it’s hard to be away from my daughter (in California). I really want to be around to watch my grandbaby grow. And my daughter is pregnant again with my second grandbaby!
What are you hopeful for right now?
Well, I’m in a construction class, and hopefully I’ll get a job. … It’s kind of weird for a woman my age. But you know, I can swing a hammer just like anybody else. So I decided to go for it. … I’m excited about it, because I grew up in a family of carpenters, and I would go to work with them and help lug around big honkin’ pieces of wood. It was fun. I think I’d enjoy it.
Can you tell us about your faith background?
Recently, a woman who volunteers here started taking me to church with her. We go to Sanctuary Church. Growing up, we were Methodist and we only really went on holidays, so I’m not that used to it. But it’s good, and it’s uplifting. I just lost my mom, so it was good to go to church — I think I needed it.
Can you tell me about coming to the Mission?
I got to the Mission last year, in the summer. … My brother dropped me off at some church, and they brought me here. It was strange. It was the first time I had been homeless, so that’s hard.
How are you feeling about your situation these days?
I think things will improve — are improving. … And I like working in the warehouse (with Work Engagement). Even if I’m not scheduled to work, I just stay in there because I like it. It’s good to keep busy and it’s good to meet the people dropping off donations, because they’re the people who are helping us.
What have you learned about life since you became homeless?
I’ve learned that it keeps going! You think you’re done and all screwed up, but then things start to change. Things can turn around really fast; like with these classes, and hopefully finding a job.
What’s the most interesting or unique thing about you?
I’m always smiling. … Because why not? When you’re walking down the street smiling, people smile back. … It’s not good to be sad all the time. All you get from that is grumpiness and headaches. So even when I feel like crap, I still smile. I can’t help it.
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