Deeper Relationships. Deeper Reality. Deeper Healing.
Nail Day. We’re seeing the entire outreach evolve into something new.
In the past, Nail Day was chaotic and unpredictable (was? What do I mean was?). We had (and used) hand signals to indicate when staff was addressing a problem (Stay calm and keep smiling)…or needed help with a meltdown, threat or other crisis…or to call police in case things got out of hand.
Recently, we’ve noted a steady change. A few weeks ago, 48 women attended the two-and-a-half hour event. They gobbled up all the snacks and drank an entire mega-pot of coffee. They did art and played pool and laughed. We were slap-down amazed that every single woman who wanted one was able to get a manicure!
In the past, we were connecting with women and building relationships. But, the relationships at Nail Day were largely on the surface….so we “bumped into” the surface chaos of their lives. Lots of women coming in high or going to the bathroom and shooting up. We had some incidents with aggression and others with women hearing voices that threatened or screamed.
Recently, the change has been in the depth – both of relationship and the atmosphere.
We are beginning to know women better. Having a steady team of regular volunteers has allowed us to deepen relationships and spend quality time with women at Nail Day (You should meet our volunteers….they are spectacular warrior-women! You know who you are!!!)
As relationships deepen, we see women come in to talk about specific things or connect with staff they know and trust. Women share the chaos they are struggling with. We don’t just see the symptoms of chaos swirling around, we are able to connect with women through relationship to help them manage and understand what’s happening inside – in the heart and spirit.
On this day staff hustled back and forth from 1 until 4:30, when we all collapsed in chairs for a debrief with the volunteer team.
What a time! One woman was in crisis and had been in the hospital. She felt panic and anger. Because our great volunteers held the fort so well, one of our staff was able to spend nearly 45 minutes with her.
Another woman had just moved and, we fear, is in an abusive relationship. (She says she’s safe. We don’t believe it.) We were able to talk privately with her for a quiet moment.
Still, another woman just wanted to talk to someone she trusted about a Bible study she’d attended that turned out to be full of judgment and religious rules.
“He said God only forgives us if we stop doing wrong things,” she shared, “I feel so awful. I did so many bad things that I never asked forgiveness for.”
Evidently this visiting preacher also told women at the bible study that God won’t bless us if we don’t tithe and only baptism by immersion “counts.” *Sigh*
The beautiful thing is that she came to Nail Day, plunked herself down in a chair and said, “Okay….I need to talk.” She talked with one of our staff about God’s nature. About what Jesus did on the cross to forgive every sin….sins we recognize and feel badly about and sins we haven’t even thought about doing yet! They talked about not earning forgiveness…and our identity as “Forgiven” when we come to Jesus for salvation.
She remembered her own baptism – at the edge of San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate bridge in the background. Warm, scented water was poured over her head from a thermos. No immersion. She saw the face of Jesus and poured out her gratitude for forgiveness.
“Do you think that ‘counts?’”
“Absolutely!” she smiled.
Malia was telling stories and full of good humor. She and one of our staff spoke in “French” to each other just to be silly. Our staff resurrected bits and pieces from high school, setting a cup of coffee in front of her saying, “Madam, café pour vous. C’estchaud et noir!”
With a totally straight face, Malia returned the greeting, speaking absolute nonsense.
French-sounding nonsense, but nonsense none-the-less. Then we LAUGHED. It felt so good.
What an afternoon! Nail Day relationships have changed. We’ve grown deeper. Put down roots that reach Deep beneath the surface. Into the real and the honest!
The time and investment of love and energy has been worth it. Every bit. We are starting to see the buds that will become blossoms – that will grow into the fruit of love.
Thank you to our volunteers. Thank you to YOU – every one who reads this blog and blesses BJM. Come deeper with us – into the real and honest! Into love invested. It’s worth it all to see the faces of women and to know that Love lives in the Tenderloin.
*names have been changed for the protection of the women and children of our community