Speaking Pain & Finding Love
It happens at least once a day. Some courageous person takes the risk to speak their pain or gift us with a revelation they discovered in their journey with homelessness, and we are reminded how important this ministry is. When this happens to me, my next thought is often of you, our supporters and friends. If only you could hear these stories, or meet these brave individuals! But since pastoral care is not a team support, here is a story that “Joan” said I could share.
Joan spent a lot of time crying in a dark closet as a child. Joan’s parents beat her daily, she said, until she left their house as a young teenager. Forty years later she wonders why nobody intervened; why teachers didn’t ask about bruises, and why emergency room doctors didn’t follow-up. As a child in that closet, she prayed that God would make the beatings stop, and when they didn’t, she lost her faith in a God of compassion. She still finds it hard to hold onto trusting relationships. Who wouldn’t?
Joan spoke about these haunting memories as we sat on a couch together at the women’s shelter and again the next week as we sat drinking tea at Mcdonald’s. The sadness of those memories hung in the space between us. Yet this is also the vulnerable space where God lives in our conversations, connecting us to one another and offering a hope we maybe not feel in our aloneness. When I asked Joan how she was going to spend the rest of her day, she said “Alone.” So I invited her to come by the Chaplains on the Way office to help make sandwiches for a community lunch we were preparing that day. And when she showed up, she jumped right in with the other volunteers, laughing, carrying on conversation and finally producing a platter full of her favorite sandwich…peanut butter and jelly!
Later that night, as we sat around a table with a group of women at the shelter, knitting and coloring, Joan was still sparkling.
“I felt useful today,” she told us. “I felt like I made a difference. I felt like I belonged to something.”
“You know,” she continued. “I always tell myself that I don’t know what love is because I didn’t experience it from my parents. But maybe that’s what love feels like. Just to belong.” Many heads nodded in agreement.
Blessed Be the bruised little girl who whimpers in a dark closet. And Blessed Be the grown woman who seeks her healing.
May we always remember the miracle of both, as we work to grow A community where all people can feel they belong.
In gratitude for your presence with us,
Rev. Rebecca Sheble-Hall Executive Director & Chaplain