Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dream a little dream

A year ago, I read this article in the NY Times about how people with mental illness who worked on a farm with animals "reported a statistically significant improvement in self-efficacy and coping skills compared to those who had not spent time working with animals." At the time, I commented about how it didn't surprise me at all, and I shared a dream I had:
About a year ago, when the land across the road was for sale, I thought about how great it would be to buy it and create a homestead for women and their children who had been in abusive relationships. I think it would be so healing for them to be out in the country, working with the goats and chickens, breathing fresh air, running through pastures. One of these days, I hope to figure out how to make that happen.

Yes, it was a big dream -- a million-dollar dream -- and how could I ever hope to make something like that happen? But it was not something that just popped into my head when I read that article. It's something that I've been thinking about ever since I heard about Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, (which I still haven't read) and started asking myself what am I uniquely qualified to do? What special gifts do I have that fit together perfectly to create something that the world needs?

I love my life out here, but I don't think that I will ever be remembered for saving a rare breed of livestock from extinction. I will never make millions selling organic food. I think I did a good job raising my children, but they're almost grown, so they don't require all the hours they did 10 years ago. There is a part of my life that I tend to forget or ignore, but then Someone comes along and seems to say, "Did you forget where you came from?"

I was sexually abused for my entire childhood and had an abusive boyfriend in high school. I "ran away" 2,000 miles to college and rarely looked back. I was a statistic, but I was one of the "lucky" ones -- with the love of a good husband and the help of a few good therapists (and good insurance), I was able to overcome a past that could have destined me for a life of self destruction.

Every now and then as I am happily living my middle-class life with all its many blessings, someone comes along and makes me think about how far I've come. That's exactly what's happened these past few days and why you haven't heard from me since Sunday. That's when I met a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse, and I invited her to come stay with us. Over the past couple days, we listened to her, walked with her in the pastures, and introduced her to all the animals. She laughed when four goats piled on top of her as she sat down in the grass and Coco the goat learned to unzip her jacket pocket. When Mike got home last night, he told me she looked a lot happier and more relaxed than when she arrived. I agreed.

Today it was time to take her back to a world of court rooms, restraining orders, and police reports. She smiled and laughed as she told others about the goat unzipping her jacket pocket, a stark contrast to her demeanor when talking about her own life. She thanked me for letting her stay with us, and she offered to help with the animals whenever we might need it. I gave her an escape plan in case her ex ignores the order of protection again. She said she'd follow it.

Ever since I started thinking about my personal gifts and all the things I love -- talking and listening to people, living out here with the animals, being understanding and passionate about abuse survivors -- I didn't think I could do anything because I didn't have the budget to create something big like the homestead I mentioned in my NY Times comment. Then it occurred to me that I don't have to do something big. I can do something small. I can help one single woman. So, my million-dollar dream has been downsized. But my little dream is something I can accomplish. Just because I can't help 20 or 30 women today does not mean that I shouldn't do what I can to help one. And then I can help another . . . and another.

I don't have a concrete plan yet, but amazingly enough, people are coming into my life to help with this. Someone emailed me recently after reading my NY Times comment from last year, asking if I was doing anything and how she could help. And today I walked into my church just to kill some time, and several women were watching a video lecture on domestic violence. It's almost a little scary the way all these things are falling together, but I'm starting to understand why I'm here and what I should be doing.


Nancy K. said...

How wonderful, Deborah! I've often thought it would be nice if I could find a way to share the riches of my life with someone less fortunate. Good for you for taking steps to make your dream a reality!

pedalpower said...

What a wonderful idea, Deborah! And it's just the kind of idea that can start small and grow. You have already changed lives by breaking the cycle in your own life, and with a program like this you would be touching even more lives.

Anonymous said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes - keep going. Looks like you are headed in the right direction!

dancingdenise said...

Hi Deborah!

This is so awesome. There are so many different kinds of abuse. And yes, you were blessed to have "good insurance." You have come so far from something I never suspected you had, when I knew you in college. I'm no stranger to abuse; it comes in all forms. This is a great thing you are doing.

God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head. So often we think in terms of grand plans, when each of us could find a way to touch one life at a time. As it has been pointed out many times, if each of us touches just one life, and the life we touch touches one more life and so on, the effect really will be enormous over time. And some ARE blessed with the resources to touch many, so the positive effects are magnified.

Anonymous said...

That's amazing. You're amazing! That post brought tears to my eyes, but also a smile to my face. Animals are amazing on their own, but the interaction between human and animal is even more amazing.

I also love it when ideas, thoughts, plans seem to come together like that. I was writing a post about things coming together (though not nearly so important as your plans) and information coming my way when I need it. I remember that happening in college and grad school at times. The same ideas or related ideas would be presented in two totally different classes or contexts. It makes you feel like your brain is on fire, doesn't it?

Jenny Holden said...

You've got a blogging award! Go to my blog to see!

Susan said...

That's such a wonderful idea, and I know you'll make it happen one step at a time.

I've been dreaming about getting farm fresh eggs into our monthly food pantry boxes here. So that people know how eggs should taste, and where they come from. Maybe they'll want to have a couple of hens for their family.


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