Best Efforts

Posted on November 7, 2017

“Everyone is trying to do their best”

My new friend and I had been chatting about life and trying to understand people in general when she suddenly made this statement, “Everyone is trying to do their best”.

“What?”  I thought to myself. How in the world is that even possible, when there is so much hatred and evil everywhere we look?

True, I had come to know her as a very kind and wise person. And that was a very loving and inclusive statement. But I had to admit, to me it sounded like some kind of simplistic pop psychology idea…

My back was turned toward her. She couldn’t see the incredulous look on my face. I was standing rather precariously on the back of a wooden bench, pinning up the recently completed artwork done by my students at the Youth Center where both she and I volunteered.

I didn’t respond quickly. Unusual for me. At first, everything within me rose up against her statement. But I didn’t argue with her.

 Still, there was something within her words…

Regardless, I bristled as I thought about all the people who had messed me over in my life. Some were just mean and rude. But some had done serious damage to me. On purpose. Was that “their best?” I strongly did not think so.



The “Youth Safe Zone” was a healthy place for hurting young people to hang out in an environment of acceptance and love. And a place with lots of life-giving and self-expressing activities, such as my weekly art class. Of these 13-25 year olds, some were homeless. Most were addicts or recovering addicts. Many were abuse victims.

Had their parents “done their best”?

I didn’t think so.

Suddenly, I remembered my own son, Joel, had been homeless for almost a month at the time of his death. At 18, he had gotten steamed one night and left home to crash at a friend’s house. He also had some addiction issues ~ and so did the other kids around him.

As he was 18 he was no longer a minor. So he wasn’t a runaway. And he wasn’t a missing person. I knew exactly where he was staying, because he told me. But I couldn’t make him come back home either. And even though he came home nearly every day to shower and eat everything in my fridge, he technically never lived with us again.

Most people don’t know the simple definition of homelessness. It is “no permanent address.” Period. It doesn’t necessarily mean a person is living in a cardboard box on the street. Nor does it mean they are a bum. Or a loser. They are just homeless.

Homelessness by its correct definition is a rampant problem among young people today. What the majority are doing is “couch surfing.” They stay for awhile at one friend’s house. Then, when they are asked to leave, they simply surf to catch the nearest available couch.

No permanent address. Period.

I went home that day and wondered if I had tried to do my best as Joel’s mother. I’m certain I made many mistakes ~ but I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I had tried my best. I also believe that Joel had tried his best. I had never thought I was a better person than he was. In fact, we were quite a bit alike.



We both had a lot of cards stacked against us at the beginning of our games ~ that is to say, when we were born.

As I thought more and more about my friend’s statement, I realized how judgmental I was being. Maybe what any individual person did that had wounded me ~ even if it was intentional ~ was the only thing they knew to protect themselves. Or keep someone or something they loved. It may have been a selfish choice, but maybe at the time they thought it was their only choice. Maybe, all things considered, it was.

I know I have hurt other people, even when I was trying my hardest to do the right thing. If I looked at life and relationships from this newly offered perspective, I can see that all people are truly equal. None of us can measure up to being all we should for ourselves or each other.

Maybe Molly is right.

Maybe we are all trying to do our best.





The same way

The same place

The same futile race


There is no judgement

We are equally broken people

Trapped within our own disgrace


Peering through life’s black curtain

Desperately seeking a solution ~

A way to erase

The mire we know within

We are all encased


As a child turns his frightened face

Searching for his Strong Father

We are all in that same place


Each so unique

Yet in identical way


For Grace is a gift

We do not deserve 

And cannot repay


tricia woodworth 10/24/17

everything else seemed to come together... My creativity, my love of helping hurting people, my belief in art as a healing agent and my faith in a God who is filled with love for us all.
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One Response to “Best Efforts”

  1. Molly says:

    Thank you, Tricia. Realizing that we are all always doing our best given our understanding in the moment is humbling. It also opens the door to compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and our fellow humans. ❤️

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