I am an introvert by nature, but do my best to play the extrovert once a month at a local women’s shelter called Mary’s Shelter. It’s a small commitment. I teach knitting on this one night a month for a little over an hour. I’ve been teaching for about three years now.
Each time I arrive at the shelter is different. There will usually be new faces: new mamas, children, and babies. One thing always remains the same: I will spend a little over an hour with a room full of women from all walks of life. I will feel inadequate. I will worry that I won’t have the right words, and I will be downright intimidated at times. But, after a few moments I will relax and recall that all I have to do is listen, and teach. Listen and Teach. When a young mama tells me that she’s not any good at this sort of thing I’ll tell her that everyone feels that way at first, it’s normal. When a woman is hostile I will remind myself that she is hurting, and this is not about me. When a woman relaxes and begins to tell me her story, of how she essentially came to believe that she isn’t worthy of love and respect, I will listen. Her words will often come back to me as I drive home sobbing. I rarely know the right thing to say in return, but I will teach her how to hold her yarn and how to knit a stitch, and my small actions will be enough to say, “You are worthy of my time. You are worthy of love.” Sometimes I will spend most of the hour holding babies, so that mamas can knit. During each woman’s time in the shelter, she will encounter dozens of other people who will send her that same message of love in various ways both big and small. She will be expected to do her part to work towards a better life, but she will be cared for and she and her children will be kept safe. Mary’s Shelter is unique in that it is a crisis pregnancy shelter that welcomes women and their children and they are not given a fixed amount of time that they are allowed to stay. While there are a few very dedicated women who run the shelter including my friend Kathleen who founded it, and my friend Eve who manages it, there are many of us who each do a small part (my friend Lori photographs the babies!) and these small acts come together to change lives. While many of the residents are from Virginia, Mary’s Shelter has taken in women from all over the east coast.
Mary’s Shelter has become an important part of my life. The women I’ve met over the years have touched my heart in an immeasurable way. I don’t have the words to express that. I’ve met moms both young and old, single, married, divorced, escaping from abusive relationships, and those who can’t seem to break the cycle of looking for love in all the wrong places. I’ve sat and knit with every woman in the video above, and no, I can’t watch it without crying. Today, I’m writing for them.
So here’s the big deal: An anonymous donor has pledged up to 25, 000 dollars in matching gifts for all new monthly pledges. Pledging monthly means donating a set amount of money each month through an automatic recurring donation. I am sure most of you are familiar with that concept. I like it, because it allows my family to give a little each month, adding up to a larger gift over the course of a year than we could afford to give at one time. The matching gift means that a five dollar monthly pledge right now becomes ten dollars, a ten dollar pledge becomes 20 and so on, throughout 2013. Regular monthly donations are what keep the shelter going. Right now Mary’s Shelter has four homes, and is hoping to open a fifth with a daycare center this year.
If you are interested in signing up to be a monthly donor, you can do so HERE. Every little bit that each of us does helps, whether it’s donating to Mary’s Shelter, or looking into what you might be able to do to support women in crisis in your own community. If we each give just a little, we can do something big. We can change the world, and we are, one mama at a time.