On the Feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux

In my research for educational material to post to Facebook and Twitter over the past few weeks, I’ve located information about countless organizations throughout the world that work to eradicate human trafficking. These organizations operate at the local, regional, national, and international levels to identify and arrest traffickers, to support survivors and their families, and to educate the public on how to spot traffickers and their victims. Truckers, airlines, health care agencies, hotel chains, universities—and the list goes on—have all joined in the fight against this terrible evil that robs its victims of their dignity, their health, their peace of mind, and most of all, their freedom. Movies such as Taken illustrate how pervasive this crime has become and how devastating its consequences on victims and their families.

I am concerned that we may experience information overload and become numb to the suffering of our fellow humans. We may think that the problem is so large that we can do nothing worthwhile. We may despair because we do not have the money to make large donations or the stamina to join physically in the efforts to bring traffickers to justice or the time to walk beside survivors in their journey back to health and life.

I am also concerned that we may become complacent and fail to help because we think such a thing could never happen to us or to our family. However, no one is immune to being preyed upon. While it is true that those who were abused as children are more likely to become victims of trafficking, it is also true that young women who were never abused are duped into this life by job offers that seem genuine. Besides, everyone who needs your help is your neighbor. It breaks my heart that women are being exploited around the world, and I rejoice every time one of them is rescued.

That is why we must all join in this fight wherever we can, whenever we can, as we have the means to do so.

Encouragement to do loving deeds to the glory of God and the good of humankind is the enduring message of St Thérèse of Lisieux:

  • I am the smallest of creatures and I recognize my worthlessness, but I also know how hearts that are generous and noble love to do good.
  • You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.
  • Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.

Today, October 1, on the Feast of St Thérèse of Lisieux, may we renew our efforts to do what we can to support the victims of trafficking. What “smallest right” thing will you do today to rescue victims and turn them into survivors?

If you are able, consider that “smallest right” thing to be a donation to The Lisieux Community to help our residents continue to survive and thrive. Any amount that you can give will be gratefully received and wisely used.

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Life Skills

To ensure that our residents learn to be self-sufficient before graduation, we help them to develop life skills, a broad term that includes any skill that enables a person to function well on a daily basis. One such skill is that of making informed choices about the use of available resources.

Although life skills can be taught in a classroom, some information can best be learned in a practical setting. For example, weekly grocery shopping trips provide an opportunity for learning how to work within a budget to select enough nutritious food for three meals a day until the next shopping trip. Success at this venture requires a good deal of planning and discipline, and if we’re honest, most of us do not achieve this goal every week, especially when prices fluctuate, familiar products are unavailable, or our household circumstances change.

Therefore, when two new residents were added to the house a few weeks ago, the regular shopping list was no longer sufficient. The available funds had increased, but so had the need, and the first grocery purchase after their arrival went over the targeted total. But after a few gentle reminders of how to shop on a budget, the women made conscientious selections during their next shopping trip and were delighted to find that their total was well under budget. Groceries were loaded into the car to the joyful sound of cheering.

This kind of victory is both the evidence of and the motivation for continued transformation. Learning life skills empowers our residents, and that makes us want to cheer right along with them.

Worth the Effort

This summer our Board of Directors has undergone several changes. We’ve elected three new members, and one of our founding members has decided to take a break from board responsibilities while remaining a loyal supporter. We’ve also increased our social media presence (find us on Twitter, sign up for our email list).

Yet one thing has not changed: our commitment to providing a nurturing environment in which wounded women not only find healing and hope, but also gain the various skills they need to be self-sufficient upon completion of the program. Our motivation is simple. We believe that every human being has infinite worth, even if he or she doesn’t recognize that worth, and even if others would deny it. The women that we serve are not throwaways.

While we are committed to our purpose of empowering our residents, we are also realistic in our expectations. We have no quick fixes to offer, no instant formula for a better life. To succeed in our program, our residents must be willing to trust that the program is designed for their good. They must be willing to change and grow. Even more important, they must understand that change is usually difficult, and personal growth is often painful. Not every woman who starts the program finishes it. In such cases, we offer the opportunity to return, and we pray that the time they spent in the program helped them in some measure.

But those who stay and face the challenges are rewarded with the satisfaction of achieving their goals. For example, two of our residents are graduating this month from the Personal and Career Development program offered by HopeWorks. They have proven their work ethic through challenging internships, and their smiles shine a bit brighter these days.

We are grateful to our financial supporters, volunteers, and partner programs for helping make those smiles possible.

“How can we seek really a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” Greg Boyle

I was surprised last year when I heard this statement from Father Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart, at the HopeWorks breakfast, A Moment of Hope. I had to think about it. But I didn’t really understand until yesterday. I was with a young woman wanting to leave the life on the streets. It seemed that everywhere she went, the man who had been using her and selling her kept showing up. With tears, she asked how he kept finding her. How do you escape that? I helped get her to a safe place.

As I went back to my day, doing ordinary things, I was surprised to find that I was on the verge of tears. What was that about?

I’ve accompanied women through this journey, sitting with them as they cried. I’ve taken them places I would never have gone in the past. I’ve heard stories that were difficult to hear about their childhood, their families, the abuse they’ve endured. I’ve seen the lack of trust they carry because no one in their lives have been trustworthy. I know about the physical problems that many endure because of lack of medical care.

I’ve never found myself on the verge of tears as I went through my day. I sat with my tears, trying to understand what was different this time. As I remembered the terror this young woman displayed because she thought she was not physically safe anywhere she went, I realized that I also felt unsafe and experienced that fear. The vulnerability I felt physically. And the barely controlled surge of tears. And I remembered what Father Greg Boyle said:

“How can we seek really a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” It is a goal to work for!

A Better Story

“Once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a chance. Not living a better story would be like deciding to die.”

Our friend Dana Welty shared this quote from Donald Miller. My first thought was my own journey some 20 years ago. I started therapy completely ignorant of what was ahead. Beginning to work on my own stuff was difficult. I began to confront parts of myself that are not pretty. Because I had not seen those parts, I had not owned the good parts either. The things I knew about myself were superficial. The next step was to learn how I had been on this earth for 42 years without having a clue who I was. As I began to own who I was and how I got there, I started to change habits.

I remember saying that I thought everyone else had the rules except me. I stayed around folks who had already walked this path and I learned from their experience. I also went to groups that had recorded others’ experiences and I realized I really didn’t have “the rules.” I tried out new things to see how I felt internally and to see how other people reacted to my new way of living. It was so hard! I feared losing the others in my life because they might not welcome my changes. My insides often felt queasy, afraid I’d make more mistakes and not be accepted by the new people in my life.

Once the experience was underway, I told my priest / mentor that I would never have started if I had known how painful it would be. He smiled and told me it was God’s grace that I didn’t know. Most of the women engaging in prostitution would prefer to leave that lifestyle. Some of the things the women say would help them do that are: a safe place to live; job training; health care; support; self-defense training; and legal assistance. We assist with these things, yet we see relapse. While we all want to live the best life we can, it is scary to go through the process to achieve it. They are having to learn the rules just like I did.

The women we serve may rail at us or even relapse but it will never be the same if they return to the streets. They’ve seen a glimpse of a different life. They must find their own compelling reason to persevere. And the grace of God.

Let’s Get Ready to (Crumble) Rumble!

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Crumble Rumble!

Calvary Episcopal Church

Mural Room
New DATE and TIME
Saturday, August 6th, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Are you ready to crumble? Please join the Lisieux Community and Thistle & Bee at this joint volunteer opportunity. We will be crumbling dried herbs harvested from our gardens and raising awareness for women who are survivors of trafficking & prostitution.

Please join us at Calvary Episcopal Church (102 N 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103) in the Mural Room. Free parking is available in the lot on the East side of the building. We will start at 10:00 am and go no later than noon. A light brunch will be available.

Please let us know your are coming by emailing Madge Deacon or RSVPing on our Facebook event.

 

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What is Trafficking?

Walk down any street in Memphis proper and you will see it—women walking on the street. Sometimes there will be a “come hither” look as she asks someone to stop and pay attention. Sometimes there is a confident stride—purse slung over her shoulder, moving at a fast clip—she has just made some money and is going to get the next “hit” of her drug. Sometimes she has no control of the money, there is someone waiting outside the door to take the money and send her on to another “trick.” The person who takes the money will supply the drugs when he/she is ready to, and not until the woman brings in a certain amount of money. If she doesn’t bring in that required amount, she will probably pay physically as well as having her needs withheld.

“Why does she do that?” you ask. She is always looking for someone to fill her need for love and affection. The song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” probably didn’t have trafficking in mind but the principle is the same. At a crucial time during childhood, someone let her know that the only affection she would receive was if she gave her physical self to them. What we usually don’t realize is that she gave a part of her soul as well. That person was a trafficker, buying and selling her as a child. Because once that message is seated in her soul by an original buyer, she will now be for sale, still looking for love and affection. Sometimes, because of the anger, she doesn’t seem to be looking for love and affection but the core message is “Please love me!” or “Please accept me!” Sometimes another person controls the sale and sometimes she makes the agreement, but always, her conscious self has no control.

We have found 3 scenarios that propel women into trafficking:

The first is the child from the family that is not stable, where emotional needs are not met. This happens not because the parents do not love the child but because they do not know how to live out love for the child (because of their own wounds).

The second scenario is the family that is stable most of the time but a crisis happens: divorce, death, loss of a job, etc. The parents are working so hard to recover their own lives that the child is left to fend for him/herself. In either of these scenarios the child is vulnerable to anyone who shows love and that is what a trafficker does at the beginning—to lure a child into the trap.

The third scenario is the woman who married without marketable skills, never worked and her spouse even took care of the family finances. If the relationship ends, she has no way to earn a living, to take control of her life; and she turns to men.