Domestic abuse is a national concern. In Los Angeles there is a sanctuary where women and their children go to heal from the ravages of domestic abuse and violence. The haven is called Good Shepherd Shelter.
I toured the shelter and met with its staff recently. I sat in on a session where the women discussed best ways to coordinate their use of the laundry appliances. With so many unrelated families sharing common facilities, conflict is almost inevitable. However, in a community spirit, the women shared with each other their concerns and frustrations. They eventually agreed on a course of action that would require little or no staff involvement. It was uplifting for me to see victims of domestic abuse use skills learned at the shelter to find peaceful approaches to decision-making.
Bright young voices fill the air
Executive Director Mark Rothman invited me to view the children’s playground while I was there. The beautiful California sunlight bathed the enclosed play area. The slides, swings and other play equipment created for the children an idyllic place to run and play with their classmates. Before long, bright young voices were shouting, “Good morning, Mr. Larry!”
Entranced by the warm California sunlight and the happy voices, I was half-inclined to call my wife in Maryland and say we were moving west!
Afterwards I entered a classroom where a young man, Eric, was teaching some children fourth grade math. No memorizing formulas here! Eric patiently explained the underlying mathematical concepts. As the children listened attentively, I thought about what the children experienced as witnesses to domestic abuse. How great it was that they now had the opportunity to interact with a strong, caring young man.
Calm serenity helps heal victims of domestic abuse
Mark showed me one of the apartments that was temporarily vacant. What a relief it must be for the women and children as they are able to settle into a pleasant and stable environment. The entire apartment spoke of a calm serenity.
A high point of the visit was meeting with two Good Shepherd Volunteers: Allison (Allie) Reynolds and Kassandra (Kassy) Villareal. They are both about mid-way through their year of service. Both have enjoyed the variety of experiences that their volunteer work has provided. Kassy, a native speaker of both English and Spanish, works with the mothers in the Learning Center. Allie teaches the 3rd graders.
At the end of the day, I spoke with Mark about the sadness that the children must feel when they have to leave this protected environment for the “real” world that may include a lot of insecurity.
I walked on holy ground
Mark mentioned that they do remind the children that their stay is temporary. Also, they see their classmates come and go. More importantly, the staff offers psychological counseling and skill training for the mothers to ensure they have a greater chance of providing adequately for their families.
In leaving, I keep in prayerful memory the mothers and their children as they seek to rebuild their lives. I know I had walked on holy ground.