Today Marie, a representative of TurnAround Inc., and I visited the female residents of a rehabilitation and recovery center in Maryland. This experience was unique to all other speaking engagements I have led or participated in. This experience opened my eyes just a little further...
Due to the high risk and probability that the women, who were recovering drug and alcohol users, could be products of broken homes and abusive pasts, we talked to the ladies about sexual abuse. After showing a clip from an early 90s Oprah Show taping of a young woman who confronted her father years after surviving incest, we discussed how it applied to our lives and how to survive in a positive way.
I will admit, I was scared. Initially, the women did not seem to want to hear anything we had to say. They were tuned in to the Oprah clip and appalled by the fact that the father had only received a year in jail for molesting both of his daughters for over a decade, while some of them had received a year or more time for smaller crimes like theft.
I met one lady who was recovering who was raped by a man who was supposed to pay for the sexual favors she offered. She was hurt that instead of him being jailed, it was her. Other ladies had even more terrifying stories of how past abuse led to their life of mischief, in which they had to recover from. After listening to their stories, mine seemed so insignificant...
However, I did end up sharing my story and how I have been able to survive and live with the thoughts of my past. I thought they would listen and think nothing of it because of how severe their own stories were. Instead, they nodded in agreement, gasped, agreed with me and seemed shocked. I was shocked by their reaction! But, they reacted in this way because they could relate--we just took different paths in finding what would help us cope.
By the end of the session, the ladies were very engaged in the conversation and even thanked Marie and I for coming. One lady shook my hand--I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I plan to go back as the ladies asked when we would return.
I have done some stupid things in past and made some terrible mistakes, but I am thankful for forgiveness--something I am not sure these women feel they have. I wish I could offer it to them as God has offered it to me (even when humans don't). Life is not about winning a pageant, receiving the most awards or becoming the most successful. A crown, a trophy and a college degree would have meant nothing to these ladies. All they wanted was someone to understand, relate and help.
Anyone who reads this post, please put petty things aside and let's focus on what is important: healing the wounded in our society.