By Mary Taris, former Bridge client.
There was a blizzard the night I ran away from home. The snow was mounting so high that even though I didn’t know where I was going, I wondered if I’d ever even get there. As the cold numbed my senses and the snow blurred my vision, I felt the situation somehow represented the story of my life.
I am from a mother who did not know how to show love, and a father who disappeared from my life before I was born. Although my mother managed a welfare check well enough to feed and clothe me and my brothers, she did not have the capacity to give us social and emotional care. There was no, “I love you,” there were no hugs or kisses, no words of assurance or affirmation, and there were no rules. It was unsettling for me and I always felt out of sorts.
Mary and her son, Jermaine, in 1982.
Being extremely shy as a child, I found my comfort in reading books. I could escape into a book and pretend to be somebody else – someplace else. Once I reached high school I discovered romance novels, which was in hindsight, not the best influence for me in my decision making. Going from knowing nothing about relationships, to reading unrealistic ideas about romance put me at a disadvantage when guys began to take an interest in me.
When I realized that I was pregnant I didn’t tell a soul, not even my best friend who joined me as I ran away that cold and snowy night. We were both miserable and at our wits end with our family problems. My friend said she had a mentor who might be able to help us. So, we took off to the bus stop for that fateful ride from North to South Minneapolis. The following morning the mentor brought us to The Bridge.
I had no idea what to expect, but I was very grateful for the way the staff took charge of the situation. They made sure that I had a medical check-up, which confirmed what I already knew. They also set up counseling for me and my mother. I felt a sense of security being in an environment with rules, expectations, and support.
Mary and Jermaine in 2014. Today, she owns a publishing company and he is an artist.
Being at The Bridge back in 1979, at the age of fifteen, opened my young mind to the reality that there were resources available to me in the community. I learned that my world did not have to be so small and limiting, and that I can reach outside of my situation and get help. I have carried those lessons with me through all the ups and downs in my life. My experience at The Bridge planted a seed, an idea in me that there was more for me out in the world than I ever knew.
So I, a runaway teen mom, finished high school on time, worked to support my son, and continued to strive for the life I could now imagine. Although my goal to go to college was delayed, I eventually found the resources to get into the Augsburg Weekend College Program, and I became the first person in my family to earn a college degree.
I became a teacher, a long-time dream of mine, but I did not stop there. I worked even harder to earn a Masters’ Degree in Education, and I did not stop there. Today I am a teacher – turned children’s book publisher, with a mission to publish children’s books by and about African Americans that will inspire others to reach for their dreams.
Mary’s is just one of the thousands of lives that have been changed by their time a The Bridge. Help us continue to support young people in crisis – donate today.