Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The God in Others

This semester, I have had the privilege of being a co-facilitator for the Beginner Conversation class at BEACON, the adult literacy program.  At times, it can be challenging.  Imaging having a conversation with a group of students, many of who known very few words of English.  After all, my students are at the foundation level. But, it is my favorite class. I am biased of course!
                  Just a few days ago, I have been granted the biggest compliment. “Christina, would you mind being my teacher forever”, one of the brightest of my students said.  Others echoed him.  This was toward the end of class, after I had shared with them my own experience as an immigrant; coming to a country where I did not known anybody, I did not even understand the language, and I left all that was familiar to me behind…  Although I spoke in English, they understood.
                  As I reflect upon that day, I came to understand that as human, we want to be understood.  We deeply crave for someone to understand our pain, our burden, our memories and to say “I know, I have been there, I understand what you are going through”…
                  As Christians, we have been thought to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We feel responsible to care for those who are less fortunate, “the needy.” Yet, I find that we often distance ourselves from those we are helping.  We rarely share ourselves with those we are caring for.
                  I could not promise my students that I will remain their teacher for the rest of their time at BEACON.  However, for the duration of my time with them, I hope to form true relationship.  I know that my time with them will shape and transform my life as I am continuing to learn more from them.  And I hope that they will know that I honor and respect them for their courage, their perseverance, and their strength. 
                  Caring for one another, helping each other reach their full potential should be more than an idea or a responsibility.  At the end of my day, I often ask myself in what way did I see God today?  Whether through my work at BEACON, the BARN, or in community, I often see God through my relationship with others.  Those that I encounter have blessed me.  Now, my question is, in what ways do I want others to see God in me?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Women In Society

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Mary Wollstonecraft

I started volunteering at BARN with the preconception that the women I am working with are survivors. I believed that they were victims of an abusive relationship. The men that promised to love them and hold them dear as long as they shall live became their abusers. Whether emotionally, physically, or financially, the one that these women had trusted the most and depended on hurt them the most. For many women living at the BARN, my beliefs hold true.

In our society, in many cultures, women have been made invisible. We are treated as the “other”. We have been thought of as the one who is intellectually inferior and overly emotional. In many situations, we have been objectified. We are often treated as ornaments and a means to an end; someone who needs to be cherished when she is needed but is also disposable when she is no longer fit for her purpose. Our role have been limited to that of a “trophy wife”, a mother, yet not capable of having a voice in the upbringing of her child or the needs of the household … . In the short time that I have been working at BARN I have encountered all those above observations.

But I would not be honest to say that I have not been surprised. I think that part of growing and learning is to become humble enough to recognize when we are wrong.  BARN, a transitional home for women and children, wants to support families that are homeless by providing services to “promote healing, growth, and self-sufficiency.” While most women at BARN take full advantage of the program, I was quite taken aback by the few who are resistant to learning. For instance, the one who remains dependent on the caseworker, refuse to move forward, and remain an obstacle to the progress of her children.  Or, the one who would rather put herself in harm’s way through her relationships with multiple partners instead of keeping a job and caring for her child … . But through those few, I learn that as women, we are called to support each other. Although for me, I naturally think of support as being compassionate, caring, and understanding, I am learning that being supportive can also mean be assertive, tough, and yet merciful.

Barbara Starrett writes, “Every women’s efforts are valuable and limited only by her own vision and the intensity of her belief in that vision.” My hope for the women I meet at BARN is that they dream big. I want them to take full advantage of what the program offers. I am hoping that they overcome their past and know that they are capable of breaking the cycle of abuse in their family. I want each of them to obtain the means to be self-sufficient and find the support that they need to raise their children in a peaceful environment. I am hoping to continue to help them in anyway that I would be the most useful: whether through tutoring, babysitting, providing life skills lesson or a listening hear … . I am ready for the challenge, I think.

With love,