‘Second Chances’ is the name of the donation centre at a local women’s shelter where items are arranged ‘shop style’ so residents can help themselves to whatever they need… especially when moving on to new housing, and for a year afterwards. Someone I met there this morning, a former resident, told me how much the ‘free shopping’ meant to her (I got a kettle! a bath mat! shower curtains!), how much the whole shelter experience meant to her… how terrified she was when she arrived, how much the staff did to help her at a time when she felt like she was losing her mind, but even more, how they helped her move on, to find peace and beauty again, to give her kids a safe home, and how she loves to come back occasionally to say hello or sign up for a program.
I watch as she and a staff member hug with genuine affection, you look great! and I can’t help thinking what I know of her life, the utter awfulness of her past and the extraordinary changes she’s made in the years since.
I can’t help being in awe that she’s standing here so relaxed, wide open, all kind soul and grateful heart.
As we pass the stairs leading to the basement ‘store’ she stops, points to a wooden sign on a bare plaster wall and her face lights up like an epiphany.
See? she says. That’s what this place is…
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
For further information and assistance, including a list of shelters in Ontario, and across Canada: