Eyes wide shut: Homeless single mother's arrest sparks conversation and action

So here's the story: A 35 year old homeless single mother leaves her 6 month old and two year old in the car while attending a job interview. The mother gets arrested and the children are placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.As a teacher and a mother, my concern and focus always goes to the children first whenever reading or hearing about a story that involves little ones, and this story was indeed no different. My heart went out to those precious children being left in the Dodge Durango in the sweltering Arizona 82 degree heat. However, I couldn't help but to also think about the mother and what a dilemma she faced on that fateful day.

Imagine being homeless with two children. Your job as a mother is to provide, nurture and care for your infant and toddler, however, life circumstances have left you without a home and without a job. Then one day you get an opportunity to interview for a job. This could be the blessing you've been praying and waiting for! This could be the beginning of a new life for you and your children! This opportunity could get you and your children a safe, warm place to rest your heads at night and put food on the table. But wait . . . where are the children going to stay during the job interview? While all of the details to this story have yet to be made public one can only imagine the desperation this mother experienced. After all, to leave your two young children in the car just has to be an act of profound desperation! One can only imagine, and hope, that this mother had exhausted all of her options. Perhaps she doesn't live near family and has lost touch with relatives and friends. Maybe she attempted to contact numerous child care services and none of them could provide her a free service or one she could afford.

Unfortunately, too many people don't take the time to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Instead they just read what's in black and white, hop on their high horse and look down on the person in the spotlight, while offering more than their 2 cents. I have gone on various websites featuring this story and have read disgusting and insensitive comments like the following:

"I don't even leave my cell phone in my car for fear someone will break into my car and steal, how can someone justify two human beings?"

"She has a Durango. Wonder how much she has to pay in car payments and gas?"

"Why are women like this popping out kids, they clearly can't afford? What was the plan?"

Society is so quick to judge before hearing the full story. Empathy is a lost art nowadays, and it is beyond heartbreaking. First of all, people need to remember that this mother was homeless! As sad and disturbing as leaving her children in the car is, one can only imagine where else they have stayed, including the mother. Second, yes she has a Dodge Durango. Why hold that against her? We don't know how old it was and we don't know her full story. Maybe she had a nice job and could afford it at some point. Is that a crime? And the last comment includes the phrase, "women like this." Women like what? Great, now we are putting this woman in a stereotype, and  potentially a racial one at that. And as far as a "plan," no one plans to be homeless! We do not know the full circumstances and chain of events that led this woman to where she was on the day of that interview. These comments just shed light on how narrow-minded and self righteous society can be, that people cannot think outside of their own circumstances to try to make sense of someone else's.

The mother, Shanesha Taylor, has recently been released from jail, but does not have her children back. Thankfully, people with compassion and empathy still remain in the world. This was a devastating situation even for the police officers involved. Sgt. Mark Clark said, "This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job . . . so it's just a sad situation." Another bright light in this dark story is that a fund raising site was set up for Shanesha and her children and has thus far raised nearly $70,000. A complete stranger by the name of Amanda Bishop, initiated the fund raising effort. Like so many of us, Amanda grew up in a single mother home where she witnessed her mother struggling to make a way for her family, making mistakes along the way, but trying nonetheless. Amanda said in a recent interview, "Nobody is saying she's (Shanesha) right for making that choice. It's just a matter of 'What is more wrong here?' That there are so many people being put in a position to have to make decisions like this."

This travesty is not just about this one particular mother and her little ones. My heart aches at the thought of just how many mothers and children are in a similar situation. How many children are going hungry? How many children do not have a warm, safe place to sleep at night? How many of these mothers have been forced into situations where they can't provide for those they love more than anything in this world? Let's not make it our business to just talk about stories like this, but let's do something about it! Volunteer at a women's shelter. Donate your children's clothes and toys. The options are limitless whenever we open our eyes and take the time to notice what is happening outside of our bubble.