In the last few weeks I have had the privilege of working alongside women ages 11 to 18, at Mary’s Place! We have 13 total participants (including the leaders), and we are working on creating artistic individually-made booklets that tell our stories. The first page was a self portrait, the second described our families, the third and fourth our context and the space that has defined us, the fifth and sixth a major life event, and the last pages will describe hopes and dreams for the future. None of these topics come lightly to most people, especially brave women who have seen and experienced a lot of displacement and instability. Most of the class is made up of girls who have lived in at least four states or countries, with various cultural backgrounds including Somali, Native American, African American and Latino heritage.
These girls did not all know each other before the class, and yet they have been willing to share much of their story. I have been able to witness them working hard to cross language and race barriers to hear each otherâ€™s stories and to encourage one another. Another girl has found this to be a safe space where she can celebrate her newly acquired A/B honor roll status, which is very exciting given there is not much support coming from her home. Some of these ladies live in hotel rooms with drunk parents and relatives, sometimes as many as 10 to a two-bed room, and yet they come enthusiastic and ready to be vulnerable, to share their life, and encourage one another.
Vulnerability has amazing power that gives people a chance for healing. It is not easy to let go of our walls (and it is necessary to have a safe space to do so), but when one does, it becomes a deeply empowering experience. That is what I have been witnessing in these Thursday evening times together: the slow breaking of walls and the beginning of healing of wounds.