Healing a matter of taking the steps

  • February 22, 2024

There is a saying that the law of relationships that are unhealthy is, “Don’t trust, Don’t talk, and Don’t feel.” The ministry of the Church on the street, and all ministry in fact, is to reach out with the law of healing relationships, “Show up, Listen, Don’t judge, and Don’t fix.”

This past month has been a reminder to me that this transformational process can take weeks, months or even years, depending upon how deep the wounds are in a person’s life. Our response must be to remain faithful to the process of healing, so that the love of Christ within us can be awakened within the wounded soul.

For one lady who is on the street as a prostitute, the process is still in its infancy, since I have only known her for about nine months. We meet most weeks, but she is only now moving out of the “Don’t trust” mode, and revealing a little of her life since she moved here from Uganda. I asked her last week if she had another job, but she said that she had no skills so could not get a job, and this is how she supports herself. In the back of my mind, I wondered if she is a victim of trafficking, but I have to continue listening before I can move into that realm of possibility for fear that she may be monitored, and I would scare her away.

I have mentioned before in these columns about the lady who “lives” in a doorway downtown. It has been about nine months since we met, and at our first meeting it was clear that she was still not completely out of the “Don’t talk” mode. She was very open about her life and how she got to be where she was. She had been clean for a while, but her son was taken away from her and she was back on the drugs. However, she is still reticent to talk about her life outside of the doorway, and where she lives and what occupies her time.

When I met up with her last week, it was clear that she is not ready to trust completely. As I approached the doorway, she was sitting with another lady that I know on the street and who has always been friendly when we met. I looked at my friend, but she was sitting there, crack-pipe in hand using drugs. She curled up in the corner of the doorway and waved her hand to tell me that she did not want to talk.

I have found this with lots of people on the street. One lady who has been clean now for many years, told me later that when she was using drugs, she used to try to hide from me when I walked by because she was ashamed of what she was doing. The good news about this is that she was at least wrestling with the “Don’t feel” mode and could still feel shame.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took her out for Christmas dinner. She wanted to tell us the news that there is a special man in her life now, and she is going on vacation with her mother and her son. While she was away, we received a picture of her with a ring, and the news that she is going to get married. Last week I received a call from another lady who I had met almost 16 years ago when she was in a shelter. Over the years she has had many lapses again into drug use, and eventually moved back with her daughter to live with her mother, father and siblings in a remote part of Canada.

When she arrived she called to ask if I could send her favourite Bible translation to her since she has felt the need for support. Since then, she has regularly sent updates on her progress, and despite the death of her mother and financial problems, she has continued to live a drug-free life. As she always does, she sent many Christmas pictures of her new life and her family. The surprise this time was that there were also pictures of her and her daughter with a man, and a large engagement ring on her finger. The caption was, “I said YES.”

It seems that both of these ladies have made it all the way through the healing process, and can once again trust, and talk, and feel.

(Kinghorn is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

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