Mary, Denver CO

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Mary, Denver CO

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“I feel like I didn’t get to have a childhood,” Mary says sadly. Mary was the eldest of seven children. One of her parents struggled with alcoholism and another with serious mental illness.

The week after her 18th birthday she joined a convent. “It was quiet there, silent most of the time. I liked the idea of community. It felt safe,” she explains. Over two years later, just before taking her vows to become a nun, they unexpectedly asked her to leave. She was crushed and couldn't make sense of it.

For the next 25 years, Mary tried to do what she thought God was asking of her. After a failed marriage, she earned a degree in Biology and tried to move forward with her life. In her second marriage, Mary endured 19 years of abuse. At age 49, she decided to put an end to the suffering. She filed for divorce and signed up to get her teaching license in the same month.

But finding a stable job proved more difficult than expected: “The abuse made me feel like I wasn't worth much. I would accept jobs that weren't good jobs,” says Mary. “I accepted a teaching job in New Mexico. I packed up all my stuff and moved,ˮ she says. “When I got there, the position was no longer available.ˮ And this became a pattern. She moved from city to city, finding and losing jobs, ending up in Denver.

During this frustrating process, Mary was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This diagnosis helped her understand new things about herself and her work habits.

Mary found a job in 1999 with a specialized insurance company and stayed through two company reorganizations. She bought a house in 2005, settling into her life in Colorado. Just a year later, they let her go. “I was depressed,ˮ Mary remembers. “I thought God was punishing me. I kept searching my mind to figure out where my responsibility was in all that had happened.ˮ

For years she took tutoring jobs and some difficult minimum-wage jobs, constantly trying to obtain full-time employment. She strung together enough money to make partial payments on her mortgage, but eventually lost her home.

Mary did the only thing left to do: she typed “homelessness” into the Google search bar. The very first website she found was Denver Rescue Mission's, where she read about the STAR Transitional Program at The Crossing. In October 2012, she moved in. “Counseling was probably what helped me the most. Loyce [a volunteer counselor at The Crossing] is closer to my age, so she understood some of the things I was going through,” explains Mary. “I would often think, ‘Will I have anything to present to Christ when I get [to heaven]?’ We worked through things like that.”

Mary’s outlook began to change. She attended Bible classes each week led by Larry Chatman and Yolanda Sonnenberg, case managers at the Mission. She received counseling once a week. She did a book study with Mandy, an intern and Mary’s case manager. She was a foster-grandparent at the local elementary school last year. She even co-teaches a Bible study at her church each Thursday for cognitively challenged adults! These activities slowly built her confidence in herself and in God.

Mary’s science background, coupled with her own disabilities, have given her a deep passion for brain health. She believes there are many ways to prevent brain disorders and some diseases, and dreams of starting her own company to raise awareness and offer solutions.

“When you find out late in life that you have disabilities, you tend to think of all you can't do instead of what you can do,” says Mary. But she’s discovered many things that she’s capable of: “When I came [to The Crossing], I thought I could never be self-supporting. Now, I can afford housing. I've made connections here that have given me hope that I didn't have before.”

She now sees life with eternity in mind and places far less emphasis on her earthly possessions: “I used to get discouraged by how long painful circumstances can last. One day, Larry drew a line across a huge whiteboard, representing all of eternity and put a little dot on the line to show how small a lifetime is. There will come a time when nothing is important except that you got through it. In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places. I'm going to have a home, and it won't be shabby.”

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