The account below was written by a former client in JBWS’ Emergency Safe House.
Colored lights and fantasies. That’s what Christmas has always meant to me. As a child, the colored lights mesmerized me, and the fantasy of Santa Claus was the focus of my attention. As an adult, my fantasy became more spiritual. I prayed constantly that the spirit of the holiday season, which inspires peace and joy throughout the world, would shine on my home and bring some of that peace and joy into it. Colored lights became symbolic of that spirit.
They still mesmerized me, and were my saving grace in times of despair, I hoped that would continue to allow me to indulge in my fantasy–the fantasy that things would get better. I spent a lot of time staring at those colored lights. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the abuse I had taken, the emotional treachery, and the neglect of the children. The lights began to fade, until finally one day, they went out. They were not going to work this year. There was no peace, no joy, no fantasy. I left for the shelter.
As I rode to that secret place the haven of peace and safety, I began to curse myself for being too hasty. Reality hit me. We would have Christmas alone–nobody to share in my kids’ fantasies. Nobody cared about me my husband often told me so. The memory of his words stung.
There would be no toys, no turkey, no daddy, not even colored lights. I should have stayed for the kids’ sakes. They would never forgive me for robbing them of their Christmas. Lonely, depressed, confused and angry, entered the shelter. There were five friendly faces waiting for us in the living room. I felt uncomfortable for a moment, but then I saw the Christmas tree.
It was very large and decorated from head toe. It sparkled and glowed. It welcomed me and warmed my heart. Christmas lists were made for all the children. An abundance of toys was delivered to the shelter – coloring books, cars, jump ropes and fully stuffed stockings. Each child would get at least a few things from their lists to Santa.
We gathered as a family – those with and without children. We shared our memories and our dreams as we helped each other wrap gifts. One woman passed out home-baked cookies and coffee. Another woman forfeited her boys’ designated gifts, as she had already purchased gifts for them.
Christmas morning was full of excitement. The shelter family gathered to open presents. Santa had paid a surprise visit. The sounds of laughter were everywhere as children showed off their new toys and sported new clothes. I choked down tears and smiled. The holiday spirit shone on my home. There would be peace on this Christmas day.
Later that day, there was a turkey with all the trimmings. We were in awe of the safety we felt on that peaceful Christmas night. I suddenly realized that my big fear had never materialized. The children had not cried for their father.
During my stay at the shelter, I received my most cherished possessions-self-respect, dignity and inner peace. They decorate my soul like colored lights. Because somebody cared, I began to care and have become someone of whom I am proud
To all of you, I wish that the spirit and peace which signify the holiday season be found within you.