Sometime last year, I began to feel like something was missing in my life. I felt God nudging me to do more. He knows my heart better than anyone and He knows how full my heart feels when I show His love to others. That is when I decided to start looking for an organization to volunteer my time with. Since my mother's passing, I've wanted to do something working with victims of domestic violence to honor her. I did look locally for a shelter, but I wasn't able to locate one in my city. Then in December, I heard a radio ad for a shelter in Anderson. As soon as I got home, I went on their website and signed up to volunteer. I was excited about this, yet scared as well. I knew my time here would bring up emotions I wasn't prepared to deal with.
On my birthday, I met with the volunteer coordinator of the shelter. I told her Saturdays would work best for me and I'd be willing to assist with whatever was needed. She said she really needed someone to work with the kids on a biweekly basis and not that many volunteers helped with the kids. I felt a grin across my face as I told her that would be perfect for me. I wasn't expecting to be emotional during my interview, but she asked what made me chose them, what made me choose to volunteer with a domestic violence shelter. I choked back my tears as I briefly told her that my mother was a victim and I wanted to do something to honor her memory. It was all suddenly setting in.
She gave me a tour of the facility, explained the help they provided. It's a massive facility that not only had emergency housing, but it also had transitional housing. The tears slowly came down my cheeks as she showed me the preschool located in the shelter and explained to me that it got it's name from a little boy who was killed by his father. A precious painting hanging on the wall of his little hand prints. This shelter also provides assistance to women who have been sexually assaulted. As she showed me the exam room, she pointed out all the technology gadgets they use now to exam a woman who has been assaulted. This room is also to exam children who have been molested. And more tears crept down my face as she showed me a bench with a few teddy bears. She said they have had an influx of children coming in recently and they were low on teddy bears. Oh my heart was hurting. When I left, I just sat in my car and cried. Part of me wanted to run away, because this was more emotional than I anticipated in all aspects. But I felt God saying He's equipped me to do this and He knows that I can handle the situation.
My first day of volunteering was spent mostly watching videos that are required as part of my training. Various movies about domestic violence, rape, and abuse of children. The beginning of one video was just a black screen and in the background you hear an actual 911 call from a child whose mother was being beaten in the background. You hear the beating, the actual beating. You hear the fighting, you hear the kid scream as his mother falls down the stairs (which you hear as well) and then the child screams even louder that his mommy is dead. This video left me sobbing. I mean really sobbing, the kind where you can't catch your breath and your nose is snotting everywhere. I was never witness to my mother's abuse because of my upbringing with my grandparents. So this video was brutal for me to hear, I just couldn't imagine being in that position.
I figured the tears would be done after that, but the next Saturday I was there, I encountered a little boy who is all of five years old. The old oldest of three kids. In my time of taking care of children throughout my life, he's one of the most difficult ones I've encountered. He smacked his three year old sister in the face and called her a b***h. At first, I admit to being annoyed how out of control this boy was. But then it hit me, all he knows is hitting girls and calling them names. My heart began to hurt desperately as I began to imagine what his little eyes have seen in his short time here on earth. Probably more than I'll see in my entire life. I decided that no matter what happened with him, I was going to love him, give him extra attention. He doesn't make it easy by any means, but that's okay. It may not be easy, but he's worth EVERY minute of my time. He actually allowed me to help him a few weeks ago, he was quiet and content as we tried to put a puzzle "ball" together. That quiet time with him reminded me how innocent he still is.
I so look forward to my time there, even if it's just a few hours every other Saturday. But when I leave, I sit in my car and I cry. I cry for that little boy and his siblings, I cry for the mother and her two small children I assisted in checking in because she was seeking a safe place to escape her abusive boyfriend, I cry because I wish I had helped my mother more, I cry because I'm so thankful a place like this exists. I cry because I don't know if I could have helped my mother more than I tried, but I can help someone else who has been in that situation.
Honoring her memory of being a domestic violence victim.
Honoring God and His words when He told me I could do this.
Even when there are days where I'm not so sure.