Sometimes we are pushed outside our comfortable parameters by unforeseen circumstances or relationships. In 2009 our lives were gloriously and beautifully altered through an unforeseen relationship. Through that relationship we have become associated with a wonderful institution, The Walter Hoving Home in Garrison, NY. It is a residential facility for women dedicated to the mission of “rebuilding lives shattered by drugs and alcohol”. We have had the opportunity to walk closely with a few of the ladies as they have gone through the process of rebuilding, but through the time we have spent there we have developed an affection and appreciation for every woman who has the courage to leave the familiar present, even if it is one controlled by addiction, and move to an unknown future. Here are a few lessons I've learned from these beautiful and courageous women about what it takes to truly change.
Courageous change begins with humility. The women we have encountered at the Home come from many walks of life, from pastors’ wives to former prostitutes, but they have one thing in common. Every woman who arrives at the Home has reached one of the lowest points in her life. Before she arrives she has to admit that her life has become unmanageable and that she is hopeless to change without help. The women who come to the home are broken and desperate, but that is exactly what enables them to embark on a journey of true change. Many of us never reach the place of being humble enough to admit our own weakness and need for change. As a result we never experience the exhilaration and refreshment of courageous change.
Are you and I ready to humbly admit our own faults and weaknesses and recognize our need of help in order to truly change?
Courageous change takes discipline. The Home has some pretty strict rules and, as Americans, really as humans, most of us have a hard time being told what to do and how to do it. There are reasons for every rule, meant to protect every woman who is in the 6-month to 12-month program. Sadly, many women refuse to abide by the rules and end up leaving, either by their own choice or by the request of the leadership. However, the women who submit to the discipline of conduct, schedule, responsibility and education gain the tools to live a new life when they leave the program. As they submit to discipline, their thinking changes. As their thinking changes, their habits change, their character changes and their lives change. These are the women who will leave the program courageously changed and ready to successfully live a totally new life.
How often do I balk at the idea of doing something just because someone told me to do it? I would much rather come up with the idea myself, thank you! If I can choose to submit myself to the discipline imposed on me by my situation, might I change for the better?
Courageous Change needs the support of others. Each new arrival to the Home is paired with a Big Sister, a woman who has been there for a while and will help the new woman to get used to her unfamiliar surroundings. She may be terrified at this turn in her life and even more terrified of her uncertain future. The function of the Big Sister is to help her transition and become a part of the community in the Home so that she can begin the process of rebuilding her shattered life. Those first few days are critical in helping a woman to stay with the program.
The women who succeed in the program recognize their need for each other. Although, like any place where groups of people live in close proximity with others, there are conflicts, at the heart of the experience at the Home is the sense of community. The women who stay in the program do become sisters. For many, they learn to feel the real pain of life for the first time without escaping into addiction and their sisters help them through that pain. They help each other in times of discouragement and weakness. They have fun and laugh. They share holidays and the joys of everyday life.
None of us were made to go through life alone. We all need others to help us when we face the trials that are inevitable in life. Just as Ecclesiastes says: “Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Do you have a few trusted friends to encourage you and pick you up as you face your own courageous change?
Courageous change takes commitment. One heartbreaking truth about the Walter Hoving Home is that only the women who stay will be able to fully embrace courageous change. Many women choose not to stay for a variety of reasons. Some miss their families too much. Some miss their street friends too much. Some who leave end up in jail, or worse. Some who leave end up coming back and successfully completing the program. But in order to graduate from the Walter Hoving Home a woman must, not only complete the program, but successfully live for a period of time free from the constant supervision and discipline imposed within the Home. Many women leave the Home between Day One and Graduation Day which is what make Graduation Day such a glorious celebration. The women who stay for the long haul have earned the respect and admiration of all who have the privilege to attend. They have humbled themselves, submitted to the discipline, and received the support of their sisters and others along the way. They have followed through on their commitment and, if they continue to walk out all they have learned, will receive the prize of a gloriously, courageously changed life that will last, not only through their life on earth but into eternity.
Ready to commit to a journey of courageous change? It’s worth it!
Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
For information visit walterhovinghome.org .