When will we recognize that we are all connected?
At Renewal House our staff, interns and volunteers work together to provide those who live with us and those in the community who attend our groups a safe place to be. And within that safety it is also our hope that these individuals and families can also build and create community together. It doesn’t always happen. It isn’t always easy. And yet, the experience we have when we see a survivor sharing his or her story with another – and building relationship out of pain and challenge – it is as if we can see the healing taking place right before our eyes. It is a wonder to behold – and yet it is the simplest of acts – talking, sharing, listening, crying, laughing – and then doing it all over again.
On Tuesday nights our shelter families gather for house meeting. And following the discussion of logistics and supply needs and chore assignments – we offer a moment.
A moment to reflect
A moment to be
A moment to share
A moment to delight in the light of a candle
A moment to pray
A moment to dream
A moment to wish
A moment to honor who they are
A moment to connect
It is in these moments when the folk around the table, light a candle and share what is on their heart and mind – staff and interns and volunteers included – that we begin to see – even just dimly – the ways that we are connected. Even just through our very basic humanness we see that we all have pain, we all have joy, we all make mistakes, we all want a better world, we all want children to have it better than we did, we all yearn for connection, we all want to be seen and known for who we are.
Sometimes in the conversations I share with residents in our shelter, the tough conversations where I have to address an issue or acknowledge a breach in confidentiality or safety, the resident will say to me – “how did what i do affect anyone else here?” – and the answer is the same – “when one person is affected we all are affected.”
In a society such as the one we live in, we believe that we are isolated beings on the journey to somewhere – when in fact we are inextricably connected to one another. And yet and until we can acknowledge this critical fact, the violence and abuse that is happening “over there” will never end – because it does not matter to us. It is when we can recognize and acknowledge that one abusive incident to any one in the world, to anyone in our community, to anyone in our congregation and to anyone in our home – deeply affects us – that we will be motivated (even inspired?) to end abuse and violence for good.
Rev. Susan Chorley is Director of Renewal House, a domestic violence shelter located in Roxbury, MA and sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry. Susan is also a Baptist minister.