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  • For many years I volunteered in women’s half-way houses and rehab facilities. Early on, when my ego and my own denial were in full bloom, I had no idea that I had anything in common with these women. What could I possibly say to them? The night before my first visit I remembered working with a therapist where I struggled to speak. She suggested I do a collage and provided me with scissors, magazines, paper and glue then said “just have fun.” It was my first collage and it was fun. Clueless, I mumbled that I could’t draw and was crumbling up the paper when the therapist stopped me and asked me to look at the picture. I was stunned. It was the first time I ever told the story of my abuse and I hand’t said a word. The tears ran free and I felt clean.

    The next day with my ego more right sized and my denial less certain, I gathered up collage materials and visited my first half-way house. Waiting in the dining room was a small group of girls ranging in age from 14 to 20. If I was apprehensive about them, it was clear they weren’t sure what a white, middle class, middle aged grandmother from the suburbs had to offer them. I passed out the collage materials and remembered that the therapist’s statement to “have fun” was what had motivated me. I told the girls to have fun and after 30 minutes they were done. I asked them to look at the pictures and, if they could, to tell me what they saw. The tears ran free. One young girl looked at hers and said “I’m beautiful.” I doubt if she had ever said those words before.

    I visited for six years of healing grace. We learned that the pain of abuse is deep whether it’s in a mansion or an alley. We learned that courage and love creates family where blood fails to bond.They have been my power of example more often than they will ever know.
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