Become a Point of Peace
Happy Feast Day since January 1 is the World Day of Peace and we are Dominican Sisters of Peace!
My favorite prayer for our community is that God help each of us become points of peace wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves. It came to me when sitting by a small lake watching a child throwing pebbles into the water. Even the smallest one set up an ever expanding circle of ripples. Thus my prayer is that even the smallest action or word of ours brings peace.
Serving the Economic Poor
In our Dominican Sisters Ministry of Presence we serve the economic poor. We start with a simple presence with the family, letting the persons determine what needs they wish to address.
Being a Mobile
Some of the families are dealing with domestic violence as well as poverty. At first I felt totally inadequate to be of help with the relationship and domestic violence problems, and I still do not directly counsel in that area. Over time the families taught me that there are other ways to lessen and end the violence. Mobiles were in fashion some years ago. They hung from the ceiling and included many pieces suspended from one center chain/cord. If I touched any one of the pieces, the whole mobile was affected, much like the work we do.
When I begin working with a family I may or may not know of the violence. Most of the time I meet with the wife while the husband is working. Some husbands I don’t even meet with until months later. By helping the wife to solve some of the problems the family is facing, the stress lessens. The husband may even leave information with the wife that he needs help with, such as a traffic ticket outstanding in Arizona preventing him from getting a Kansas license. There may be bills to pay and threats to be sent to collections. Helping them navigate the systems on the phone or driving them to set up a payment plan face to face with the agency gives hope that this can be solved. As problems get resolved and the stress lessens, so does the violence.
Small Actions Make a Big Difference
Most of these situations have been with immigrant families who are struggling to make a living. Problems exist because they have recently come to the US, and they do not have legal status or they lost their asylum case. A lack of hope leads to depression. Often the man feels like a failure so he turns to alcohol and/or drugs. With the accompanying presence of our ministry, hope begins to return and the usage lessens. One family even had their children go through RCIA with Sr. Roserita and get married in the church. He has not used or abused in five years.
One man had told his wife she could go back to their country but he would keep the children. She was so depressed, seeing no way out. Since she would not abandon her children she risked being abused. I began visiting her several times a month. Having another adult to talk to and treat her with respect helped her self-esteem. We sorted bills from the birth of their child and set payment plans. She felt like she was contributing to the family when she was able to tell her husband of progress. Their home was looking better, and then they were able to move to a better trailer because the liquor money was now supporting the family.
Three years later she called to tell me that her husband had told the neighbor man the next time his wife came over bloodied he would call the police. “No one should be beaten. If you and your wife cannot solve your problem, come over and Erma and I will help you.”
The smallest of actions can make so much difference for anyone we encounter.