We sat in the car and just looked at each other. Not a word was muttered for a minute or two. Complete silence filled our vehicle as we prepared to leave. We had just completed this week’s volunteer activity and we sought the proper words to speak and appropriate way to react. The experience was eye-opening, fulfilling, emotional, and impactful to say the least. We will never know what, if any, impact that we made, but we know exactly how we felt when it was over. It was a night filled with courage, conversation, and great food. It was an evening that will not be forgotten.
We tentatively walked through the front door of the Genesis House, a transitional home for chemically dependent women. We really didn’t know what to expect. We have volunteered with many organizations in many capacities. How would we help this population of women? Would they want us there? Would they question our motives? All valid questions that we asked ourselves as we were greeted by a group of women that sat quietly around a living room. It was obvious that they were trying to “figure us out” and understand why we were there. We later learned that speculation and judgements were happening long before we arrived to volunteer. “Why would normal people want to be in this place with us?” we heard one person say. The answer in our mind was simple…….because we care.
We sat down in a circle with the group and we opened by introducing ourselves and Impact 52. We shared our goals, our passion to help others, and our calling to break down stereotypes and barriers in our society. We wanted them to know that there were no ulterior motives or hidden agendas. We just wanted to learn, spend time with them, and show them that we truly do care. As we spoke, we observed the body language of the room. Were we being heard? Did anyone care? We then received the answer when the unexpected happened.
One by one the women introduced themselves and shared their stories. The stories were raw, real, and almost unimaginable to some degree. Each woman talked about the darkness of heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and meth addiction and the criminal activity, loss of family, incarceration, and homelessness that went along with it. In some cases we heard about twenty, thirty, and almost forty years of addiction, bad decisions, and severe consequences. It was obvious that these women haven’t truly lived. They have been prisoners, in many ways, to their addiction. The testimonials that we heard will have a place in our mind, and our hearts, for the rest of our lives. It takes a lot of courage to open up and share such personal hardships with two complete strangers. It takes strength to continue to fight the good fight, to seek help, and to find salvation. It takes commitment to hold on to hope. Hope that addiction can be overcome and beat. Hope that a self-sufficient life can be lived. Hope that they can reunite with children that were lost and taken away. These women have been through a lot thus far in their lives and they have a long way to go to reach their goals and to repair the damage that has been done. Erica and I connected with these women. We have faith in each one of them. We believe that they have what it takes to regain their lives.
We enjoyed the conversation that we had with our new friends at the Genesis House. We even took time to open up and share our personal struggles, our bad decisions, and the demons in our lives. You see, we all have them. I do not care who you are, you have them. You do not have it all put together all of the time. You have made bad decisions in your life. Maybe you were just lucky enough not to get caught. Maybe you stopped before you became dependent. We all have struggles and challenges that we face each and every day. The women who call the Genesis House home right now are no different from you, me, or others. They are people. They are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters. The path they have traveled may be different from the one that you have walked, but we must not forget that they are people in the end.
To our friends at the Genesis House (we hope that they read this post) we want to thank you again for allowing us to spend time with you. We appreciate you, your stories, and your hearts. Know that we, and others, care about you and offer our thoughts and prayers for your continued journey. Your kind words, the applause, and your gratitude means the world to us. Please know that the impact you had on us is far greater than we could ever express.
The Genesis House is just one of the programs and services that is offered to our community by a nonprofit organization call Genesis Outreach. It is an organization that is making a huge difference in the lives of individuals and families in our area. They offer affordable housing opportunities and programs with the purpose and hope that they will lead to permanent housing, self-sufficiency, and long-term sobriety. Take some time to learn more about them. Support them. Get involved. Invest time in the lives of other people. It is the best investment that you will ever make.
Everyone has a story. Take time to hear it!