STORIES OF HOPE
Rockville United Church’s Mission & Outreach committee was asked to share stories of hope with Rainbow Place shelter. Rainbow Place is a women’s shelter, in Rockville, that houses women overnight from September to March, offering dinner, breakfast and a lunch to go as well as laundry facilities, showers and referrals.
The shelter was opened in 1982 by 10 women who wanted to actively engage in mission. Nancy Sushinsky, Rainbow Shelters Executive Director, is collecting these stories as a way of giving hope and comfort to the homeless women she serves. Our RUC Youth have been cooking and serving a monthly dinner at Rainbow House for almost 25 years.
There are many roads to homelessness and almost anyone who has experienced homelessness also experiences hopelessness. It is devastating and paralyzing. Hope, however, is powerful and motivating and is a key factor of success for the homeless.
A few people in our congregation have shared their stories of feeling hopeless and of having hope restored.
These stories were shared at a Fellowship Story Hour at RUC on February 17, 2019. If you would like to share your story, please contact Donna Perry-Lalley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are short summaries of the stories. To read the complete story, click on the READ button. To see a video of the event click HERE!
Karen K. Holmes: My Journey
"40 Years and Wandering No More"
Hello everyone and thanks for stopping by. I am Karen K. Holmes. The question you may be asking is "Who is Karen K. Holmes?" To start things off, I am an advocate for the transgender community. But let me take you back to the time before I became an advocate for my fellow sisters and brothers in the community.
I recall as early as 13 years of age when I started dressing in clothes designed for women. I wasn't sure why or when I decided to do that, but I felt right within myself to wear women's clothing and I was more comfortable with myself when I did. For years I purchased women's clothes, shoes, and wigs to dress in. I kept the clothes for a year or so and then packed them up to throw them away, only to return to dressing as a woman a few months later.
I felt awesome and at peace when I dressed in women's clothes.
I never talked about my feelings to anyone, not even my parents. Later my parents felt something may be wrong and sent me to see a psychiatrist who later said I had a chemical imbalance and put me on Lithium. After months of using this drug, I realized this was crap—I was able to get off that drug by faking everything was OK. But deep down inside I knew everything wasn't OK. I was afraid to talk to my parents about what was going on with my dressing because I didn't understand it myself and couldn't find the words to explain it. I was confused when I was a young boy and my confusion continued as I grew into a young man.
"From the Neighborhoods of Amman, Jordan
to a Published Author in the U.S."
I was born in Amman, Jordan. I had a happy and modest childhood. I grew up in different apartment buildings in different neighborhoods of Amman in the 80s. My dad worked at a bank, and my mom worked as a school teacher. Neither of them finished college.
We were a low middle-class family. We didn’t have much. We bought clothes twice a year: on Christmas and on Easter, and a new pair of shoes once a year if we were lucky. We never went out to eat, and we played with our cousins in the street.
I loved reading from an early age and excelled at writing. But I had a challenge: English. I was behind, mostly because I changed schools and the school that I ended up with had an advanced English curriculum. I lagged behind.
I dreaded looking at English books. My dad, who grew up poor, and was lucky to get educated by being accepted in an educational facility affiliated with the Catholic church in Bait Jala in Palestine, noticed my struggle and told me that the only way I can improve my English was by reading books.
I was in a Lamaze class, but I wasn’t pregnant. Yet here I was, sitting on the floor, surrounded by women behind bellies.
One of my former students had asked me to go with her because her husband worked nights, and her family was no help - the less said about that the better.
Everybody, it seemed, was pregnant. The only topic of conversation anymore seemed to be how long labor was, or what vitamins to take, or when the baby should get solid food.
Every time I saw one of those “Baby on Board” signs, I got angry. It was like a proclamation – “My reproductive system works!”
Mine didn’t work. So we started the fertility treatments – painful, expensive, and ultimately futile. We decided to adopt – or try to. “Adopt a baby from Korea,” our friends said. Then Korea decided to stop making babies available – it was bad for the country’s public image or something.
It didn’t matter – it cost thousands of dollars to adopt a baby from a foreign country – thousands of dollars we didn’t have.
When Donna told me about this project several weeks ago, my story came to mind and I quickly volunteered to share it. I must admit that, since then, I’ve grown increasingly anxious and spent a lot of time trying to rationalize my way out of this. But here I am.
If you know me, then I apologize in advance, because you must have heard some version of all of this before. If you don’t know me, I’ll tell you that I’ve given birth to one child. She was born on December 23, and we brought her home on Christmas day inside of a baby-sized red stocking they gave us at the hospital. She was perfect in every way. I quit my job, much to my ex-husband’s displeasure, and spent the next 2 ½ years watching my darling daughter grow.
There are those times--watershed events, benchmark events—that define our lives, I think. I’m speaking for only myself of course, but I expect that everyone has their own defining time or two. They are the times by which we measure all other times: That was 2 years before the event, this was 3 years after.
Looking back now, my defining time began with a busy telephone signal—before the age of cell phones even. It was July 5, 1994, and we had just returned from a gathering of friends at Deep Creek Lake. Amy was about 2 1/2. Something seemed “off” with her, maybe a fever, she seemed like she lacked energy. I’d called the pediatrician for advice and gotten that blessed busy signal. Not wanting to wait (maybe another blessing, mother’s intuition?) I decided to just take her in anyway and they could hopefully squeeze her in.