Monday, December 20, 2010


Probably no one prefers to live in a shelter over the holidays, unless it's better than being abused at home.

I have yet to see a menorah, but the shelter administrator always makes sure there are two or three trees on the main and basement levels. The walls have decorations, Santa's name pops up regularly, and a massive influx of toys and other goods keeps staff and volunteers extra busy.

I don't doubt that many residents grieve the loss of their home, extended family, and some traditions in their rooms, but in the living areas, evidence of the holiday spirit is prevalent. There are more smiles than usual, more excitement on the kids' faces, and the residents' obvious happiness at gifts they've already received at the annual Xmas party.

In group, with support, the kids talk about good and bad Christmases. When they lived with their "real" father and had a happy day. When Mom's boyfriend threw their Christmas tree into the street because he didn't like something. The Christmas they didn't have money for presents. The Christmas grandparents came from Puerto Rico and brought the sun with them.

Every Christmas in my house hasn't been perfect, but the approaching holiday still brings with it mostly happy memories, the joy of outrageous (and often surprising) stories at the family party, and pictures and cards that make us smile, shed tears, or rejoice as they allow us to share the lives of distant friends and family.

I am grateful I never had to leave family albums, videos or CDs behind because saving my life or my children's lives was more important.

Grateful I don't have to try to forget the trauma of daily fear and pain, beg for treatment and freedom that should be my right, or pray for a life that includes more serenity and comfort.

How lucky I am. I hope you are, too.

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