I organized a speaker series for women in a residential facility. These are Veteran women who are there to overcome the affects of homelessness and addiction. They have served in the U.S. Military, within the United States or abroad, or are the spouses or daughters of those who has served.
These women meet with me in an intimate room in a home provided for such recovery, for they all need the reassurance, security and freedom from the ills of the streets. It isn’t easy getting into a home from homelessness and getting clean and sober, but more importantly, they are ready for it when they come.
My goal has been to encourage these women to listen to others’ experience, strength and hope, and to imagine and then create their own possibility. I start the discussion, and introduce a speaker. The group is intimate and open. I say back to them what I think I heard – they do not even realize sometimes what they said – they tell their stories about life and hardship. They share, and I gently lead them to talking about what they could create and what is possible from where they come. One woman, struggling back from recent addiction and homelessness, talks about how much she loved having her own trucking company with her husband, that the business was lost and she misses it, that she loved trucks and construction and everything related to it. And she is beginning a whole new life, I told her. She could transfer her skills from her experience with trucks, construction and rigs, a gift that many women don’t have. There are a myriad of jobs that would welcome her knowledge and skills and how exciting to be able to imagine what that might look like in the future!
Her demeanor changed. Her eyes widened. She smiled. It never occurred to her that she could retool her skills and widen the lens of possibility. So, maybe she will be the owner and operator of a trucking company. But I could also ask her to think about working for someone else’s company, in their office, being a driver and not an owner, or starting a related business, sharpen her skills in construction, get into waste water management, environmental issues or any number of trades. Also, many unions send interested interns to school free and pay them while they are learning.
Her whole world opened up. She went from “I’ll never be able to…..” to “Yes, I could do something like that!” And, suddenly her world was re-framed.
As I left the home that night, walking down the path to the front gate, I met up with a woman I had coached a year beforehand. I visited her at the residence those first few weeks and she was saying she didn’t think she could ever get a job again, that she was ashamed, too old, embarrassed that she had made such a mess of her life. I encouraged her and asked her to open her mind and her heart to new possibility, to think of what she did when she was working and how she could turn some of those skills and experiences into other types of endeavors. Now, she was returning from her wonderful job in Malibu, happily riding the bus to and from work along the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway. She was happy in her work, living in her own apartment with her son, and paying her bills. She was free of homelessness and addiction.
It was a joyous moment meeting up with her that very night. I had just left those who were beginning their journey out of a spiral. She reminded me what the journey looked like and how delightful our dreams are when they find us.