Last Monday I had the opportunity to attend a training at Thistle Farms. This organization has been effectively providing living wage employment and wrap around services to women survivors of trafficking and prostitution for the last nineteen years. In order to catch a crazy early flight to Nashville, I woke up with mouth agape and face damp from drool. Two short hours later, when my family was just waking up, I joined fifty other men and women from all over the country to learn how Becca Stevens fearlessly leads such a successful organization. An Episcopal priest and former Chaplain at Vanderbilt, she does not fit the traditional stereotype of the former. Taking the platform in jeans, bare feet and a messy bun, she more likely fits the bill of a Jesus loving hippy circa 1970.
She is serious about what she does, and wields tons of influence for good in the town synonymous with country music, though my hunch is that she is more likely listening to Carol King, or James Taylor. Despite her resolve and passionate nature, she has a dry sense of humor that on more than one occasion had the audience in hysterics. Many of the survivors, and graduates of the program continue to work there either in the office, or in the factory that produces candles and natural body products. We heard from 10 survivors, all at different places along the recovery journey. Their affinity and mutual respect for each other (Becca and the survivors) was obvious in the way they giggled, and affectionately poked fun at each other the way sisters do.
Now I’m back home in the burbs of Chi town, ironically listening to country crooner, Kacey Musgraves, and beginning the work of discerning the kind of culture I want to create for the women who will one day work at Décor to Door. The overarching messages I took from this conference were:
It is crucial to see that we are more alike than we are different.
To recognize that they will not be working for me, but I for them.
To see each other as sisters, helping one another along the path of recovery; recovery being the finding again of our true selves.
Seeing that there is not an us and a them, but simply the shared humanity present in we.
Every one of us is broken in one way or another and looking for others to walk with us along the path of restoration.
As I have thought and prayed about how to inform the ethos of this company, God has given me these passages of scripture:
Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.”
Isaiah 61:3 “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”
These verses will serve as a compass for navigating how Décor to Door will cultivate a culture of hope.
There is much work to be done, friends. Will you partner with me to stand in solidarity with these women who need a community of support as they rebuild their lives? By purchasing a subscription for beautiful seasonal items, you are not only providing hospitality to your own friends and family, but also to the stranger, as your subscription will open doors of opportunity to the woman who has found hope.
For more information on Thistle Farms, visit Thistlefarms.com