Thanksgiving is the season for gratitude where everyone is thinking about all the blessings that each has. Some of us think of how lucky we are to have family, homes, cars, food and so much more. But many people take it all for granted. And many more grumble about what they want. In fact, many complain about the life situations that they find themselves in the midst of.
But here at the shelter, I am inspired by our clients. Just recently, I spent a few hours with a young mother who is genuinely grateful and feels a sense of optimism. It would be easy for me to say that she just has rose- colored glasses on, or that she is in denial, but in talking with her I get a true sense that she feels gratitude and she experiences a deep sense of optimism. She has a sense of well-being, in spite of the barriers and set backs she has experienced.
After fleeing a horrific situation, she and her children who now live at the shelter. As person who grew up in a healthy home, I can not even comprehend the fear and stress she experienced every minute of every day of her life before she came here. Will he beat me today? Will he rip my children out of my arms and take her away like he threatens to do? Will I be in the hospital again lying about how I got the bruises? Will anyone notice the marks of strangulation that fade quickly?
She has no family, little work experience, no savings, little income, no place to call home. She has come to the shelter because she wants her children to have a chance at future that is not filled with violence. Although she isn’t educated, she can sense that the violence all around her children was already sinking into their brains at young age as they are processing information. Without being told, she understands that the environment that she was living in is literally toxic to her children’s health, growth and learning. And what she tells me every time I see her, is that she is so grateful to have her children in her arms in safety. For her that is the greatest blessing that she has.
If I were in her shoes, I don’t know what my emotions might be. But I doubt that I would be as hopeful, joyful and grateful as she is. Every time I see her, she thanks me for the services we provide. She tells me about the apartment she is hoping to find. She tells me how wonderful it is to have a job where the people around her protect her. She is able to smile at time when I’m not sure I could stop crying. She makes me think about all those things that I take for granted. She helps me feel grateful for my family, friends, and home. She reminds me that all too many women, men and children in our world are not safe. Not every person living in a shelter feels the same way, but she is an inspiration not just for staff, but all around her. She inspires me to be hopeful, joyful and grateful. She told me that she lay in bed here at the shelter that first night and said “Thank you God for all you have given me that has gotten me to this point in my life.” She inspires me to be hopeful, joyful and grateful.
Kathy Reid, Executive Director