Monday, October 31, 2011

My 1st Day @ Girls' Home (Be warned...kinda long)

Deep breaths. No stress. Don't freak out.
Don't start wondering what you are going to say.
Don't start wondering "What if they don't like me?"
You are not allowed to over think this.

Has God led you here? Yes. Will He desert you? No.

Don't you love it when I let you into my head?

I still remember the first time I walked into the women's shelter I volunteered with and then worked with for short time. I'd been a bit nervous but felt I had a handle on the situation. After all, I had "been there" so I had some understanding of their mindset. Don't get me wrong, I quickly learned how minimal my experience was next to the women who lived at the shelter but my life story gave me more confidence to walk in the door.

I have nothing in my life that makes me think I have any understand of what these girls have experienced. It is beyond my understanding. It is completely unfamiliar territory...which is not a place I'm comfortable. I like knowing things. I don't mind change or new adventures as long as I have some sort of foothold, some sort of comprehension about where we are going or what is going to happen.

I had none walking into this. As a matter of fact I didn't even know what we were going to teach until this morning. However, when I heard, I was reassured about what I was going to say. Debbie and Meredith were starting a new lesson and the girls had asked to have a class on how to find a job. Job hunting skills...a dry topic to be sure. But one I know a lot about...and one that-for the girls-means hope, a new life, the chance to achieve dreams.

When I worked at the women's shelter we often had volunteers who came in wanting to "help" the women. However, having no understanding of the condition of the women's mental and emotional state, they often walked in expecting tears, hugs and "warm fuzzies". What they usually got was the opposite. So they left feeling disappointed and disillusioned and many of them never came back. I made sure I set what I felt were realistic expectations. I certainly didn't look for any sort of fuzzies. I was extremely glad I was with two women who had been going to the home for a while, who obviously loved the girls, didn't consider me an intruder (one more worry laid to rest), and who "knew the ropes".

The day started with a meeting and prayer (lots of prayer), a quick lunch, then we headed over.

On the drive over...(yep, you are in my head again)
Ummm...Father? (Yes?)
Ummm...not sure how to put this. (It's okay, I know)
At this point I start this a Christmas list but so much more important!
I want them to know I love them even though I've never even met them.

I want them to know You love them.

I know my story isn't like theirs but it is the story of rescue and redemption. I know what You did in my life. I want You to do it in theirs. I want to be a part of You doing it in theirs. Not for me, so I feel good about what I do but for them. I want to see them healed, whole, happy. I want them to know You are there for them and that You are more than able and willing to rescue, restore, redeem.

I want all their best dreams to come true.

(So do I.)

Few minutes later...
Ummm....Father? (Yes?) I...think You know. (I do)
So I turn up the radio, singing praise music loudly, joyfully...badly. So grateful I have a Father who knows me, loves me, and reassures me in the midst of my uncertainty.

Walking up to the door, I hear a sound that is immediately familiar and reassuring. It's like walking up to my house on Wednesday evenings. There is a group of teens that comes over to hang out and get a ride to/from church every Wednesday. The numbers vary but the volume is always the same-loud and high pitched. The sound I'm hearing is teenaged girls laughing, squealing, and trying to talk over one another.

We walk in and I see a number of girls sitting on couches, standing around, talking. Topics of conversation seem to be clothes, jewelry, the "borrowing" of clothes or jewelry. And disappointment...they know it's Halloween but they won't be dressing up or getting candy (well, maybe they will get a little candy thanks to Meredith but they don't know that yet). I'm trying not to stare or appear to be staring and sort of slide over to Meredith as we are standing there waiting that point I'm not sure. I just want to appear like I am suppossed to be here and that I'm useful.

The girls are broken into two groups. The first group sits down. We start talking about resumes. Debbie has a paper with samples of headings and we have them pick their favorite. She has a sample application she wants them to fill out so they have the information when we do their resumes. We talk about how to answer the phone when you don't recognize the number and it could be a potential employer. I explain to them about creating a professional sounding email address. No or We talk about changing voicemails. It's when we get to the sample application that I am really able to help out. I can wordsmith a job application! Never had a "real" job? Ever babysat, mowed grass for $5, cleaned your Grandma's house? Suddenly you have work experience in "childcare", "groundskeeping" and "housekeeping." "Friendly" means "good people skills" and they learn to put the word "negotiable" next to "Expected Salary". Not all the girls are engaged in the lesson but enough of them are that they keep me busy for the duration. One girl wants me to "interview" her and we have to reassure her several times that we are going to do that in an upcoming lesson. She really wants to do it now but is distracted when Meredith breaks out the treat bags. They are so excited and tear into the candy. One girl barters Snickers for Reeses Cups while another quietly takes some of hers and hides it in her jacket. She smiles at me "They aren't going to take my candy." I reassure her that we got permission before giving it to them but I notice she never takes it out of her pocket.

The second group comes in and sits down. They are a little less rowdy than the first and really need less help in areas but I'm able to help in some of the same ways as with the first group. It's the girl that is sitting to the left of me that has my attention for most of the time. I hardly get to say anything to her but I have my hand on her shoulder for quite a while. She tries to participate in filling out the application but gives up and lays her head on the table. She is crying the entire session. There's nothing I can say or do. I don't know her name or why she's crying. I just want her to know that someone notices, that we care. When Meredith passes out the candy, she puts hers in her pocket and asks if we are done. Debbie nods yes and she leaves.

I kind of feel bad, like I monopolized Debbie's lesson, but she is actually grateful. She and Meredith are both encouraging, telling me what a good job I did and how glad they are that I know this stuff. Meredith asks me if I've taught before and when I say yes, she says she could tell. One of the teachers who was observing gives me an enthusiastic "good job" and one of the other staff comes over to ask me some questions about interviewing. But the absolute, without a doubt, best part of my of the girls comes over to make sure I'm coming back. When I tell her I'll be back next week, she smiles at me like this is the answer she was hoping for and walks away.

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