Just one person: part 1

If you’ve read our blog for long, you’ve heard me talk about my former job that I loved. For seven years I worked as a Behavioral Health Specialist (caseworker) for an organization that helps women through pregnancy and early parenting. Fresh out of college, 23 years old, I started this job. I was so naïve and so excited. Because of the home I’d grown up in, serving such a high need population seemed the perfect job to me. We’d had pregnant women live with us many times growing up, ones with broken lives and no where to go. I jumped right in with very little training and started doing home visits to women who needed help.

In my first month, I met Debbie. She was 15 years older than me. She was weathered and looked beaten down by life. She’d lived the majority of her life addicted to various drugs. I listened to her story in a Denny’s restaurant in Ballard and was left without words. Abuse. Addiction. Pain. Relapse. Loss. Constant struggle. I had never in my life felt so unequipped for the task as I did that afternoon. She’d had two kids removed from her custody before and she was determined to keep this baby she was newly pregnant with.

She was still on some drugs. I didn’t have enough courage to even ask her about which ones and what her plan was to stop using. I was frankly scared to death and was sure I was the wrong person for this job. She went into drug treatment mid-pregnancy. I visited her there. I called her often, did my best to help her find the resources she needed, wrote many reference letters for her. In my lack of skill, I compensated with love. She knew how much I cared for her. We brought Christmas to her that winter, a tree, decorations, gifts and food. All kinds of fun things. Bags of clothes for her baby too.

We kept in touch a long time. She came to Christmas parties. She maintained her sobriety. She kept her daughter in her custody. Year after year. Two years ago, she called one Christmas just to tell me she was still clean, had a great job and to tell me she didn’t know where she’d be if she hadn’t had all the help she received the summer she met me. I cried on the phone with her and told her I was so proud of her. Last fall, at the zoo someone caught my eye. I decided to risk being weird.


“Yes? Who are….Karissa?”

“YES! How are you? Are you with all these kids (a group of 8 was with her)?”

“Yes, we are on a school field trip, I took the day off work to come. Look-there’s my daughter there, I’ve never lost her.”

She was beaming and I was about to cry in the middle of the zoo with kids swirling all around our feet. We shared a big long hug then she ran to catch up with her group.

I share all this for a reason. I quit that job 18 months ago when I knew God was asking me to. I still miss it. This month I had the opportunity to write a part of the program for the Step by Step auction fundraiser. I gathered stories from the caseworkers and then condensed them into a few words. That took hours and it was incredible to read through stories and to ponder all the lives that had been changed because of the investment of these women who work for Step by Step. As I was writing the stories onto cardboard signs (long story but part of the program), tears fell onto the paper.

So many of the people who’s lives were impacted just needed one person to stand in the gap for them. They needed one person to say “Yes you can” instead of “Give up”. They needed a glimpse of hope so they could start taking steps forward. They needed a kind word, a listening ear, answers to their many questions, someone to walk beside them. Help navigating the (often unexpected) path of mothering that lay before them.

Whatever your place in life, whatever your ability or inability, my thought to share today is simple.

Everyone is capable of being that one person.

Even a 23 year old girl who knew nearly nothing of the hard things of life-by offering only simple, genuine compassion made a difference in the life of another.

Part two coming soon…….



That is beautiful, Karissa. I think often times we think we don’t have enough to offer or couldn’t begin to understand the struggle someone is facing. I can recall many people who probably felt that way as they offered their love and support to me during some rough times in my life. The fact of the matter is that all I needed was their love. I needed to feel valued and cared for. You were an amazing case manager and will never know to what extent you helped transform lives.


oh, so so true Karissa, it really does take only 1 person to show God’s love, and to change a life. I am living proof of this.

I can attest to what you’re saying as a person whose been through almost everything described that your friend Debbie had to walk through, some due to the example layed out for her by those entrused to care for her, and then responses to that life, by numbing the pain and emptiness.

I had one friend who really pushed me mentally, asking me, “what if what He says is True, what IF Jesus is who He says He is? you’ve spent a lot of time telling me why it isn’t true, tell me what would be different if it was?” about 3 months later I accepted Jesus as my savior….

Then he introduced me to my first ‘christian” girl friend, who was raised in the church, did all the right things, new very little suffering, but she taught me and encouraged me to talk to God, (aka prayer) and to search and know His word, and also she was there with me, to listen even if she personally couldn’t understand. What I remember most about our time together in those early years of my faith, was that she was very clear that sin was sin. She confessed that she had struggled with lust and that it was no different than any of the sin that i had committed. Even now it’s a very tiered system in the church as it relates to sin, but she made it all so simple, and she never judged me just because I’d grown up completely different than her, in God’s eyes we were the same.

i won’t forget her, and continue to seek to be that for others, a voice that says, don’t turn back to the old life, keep walking.

thanks for sharing this karissa, looking forward to part 2.



i was also gonna add, just because you’re not ’employed’ per say, you still will be doing His work that is just as important, and will look identical to what you’ve descibed above. you can remove the title and the ‘pay’ but you’re still doing work for the kingdom, such a beautiful beautiful thing.