This is Elaine. She works in Washington, DC for a women's services organization, which offers housing, health, education and employment programs that empower homeless women to change their lives. She's the education coordinator, so she plans and oversees 25 classes every week, including "life skills" like math, literacy and computer literacy, plus things that make her heart sing, like watercolor, poetry, world geography, play reading. She also plans outings to museums and theaters for women who might never have experienced any of these things. And you know what? They love it. She loves it.
The first time Elaine took the women to see Shakespeare--an outdoor viewing of Much Ado with Denzel Washington--they were riveted, even though it was freezing cold. After a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library, one of the women became so intrigued with Queen Elizabeth that she studied up on her for months. Later the women saw Pericles and loved it. Elaine says many of these women have lived BIG, complicated lives and they respond to the same in Shakespeare--they laugh big laughs and gasp at big betrayals. The occasional missed word does not hinder them from understanding the lives and emotions playing out on stage. They recently read Our Town, and the same applied to the smallest moments of life.
Elaine works full-time and has a family and doesn't make a lot of money and has the same work-life balance frustrations that many of us do, but here is her takeaway from this job:
“I've learned that it is a choice to view complexity as either beautiful or threatening. We try to take the complexity of life and find the beauty in it so that we can move forward with understanding, purpose and hope.”
Every five days a woman moves from the residential program into her own home. I like to think that when they move out, they take some of that beauty into their new lives.