"It's a good programme they got here." She is answering my question about how she is doing in her new placement. She lived on the streets for years and finally, when found that she had a disability and qualified for care, has a room of her own in a place that provides care. The file says that she has two children that she hasn't seen for years, she's had several boyfriends and a dark past.
As we talk she quietly answers my question meeting my gaze only seldomly. Years and years of hurt pour out of her. Rape, if not a daily occurance, was her only experience of sex. Two children of rape. Boyfriends who rented her out for money. A body that wasn't her own. A need to survive the only thing that kept her going.
Yet she seems so whole, so completely present as we talk. She describes her past with no need for pity, no desire for compassion, she's just answering questions. She smiles rarely but when she does, she's beautiful. She only has one goal, she wants to see pictures of her children, not to meet them or know them, just to see pictures of them. Check out that they are doing well. She doesn't wish to intrude on their lives, she doesn't wish to be reminded of the brutality that brought them life. Just see them. That's all.
As we talk the room seems as if the silence of the room wraps around the words she speaks. As if the only important thing in the world what she is saying. She wants to be understood, she want us to know that she is a woman of noble character who lived through ignoble circumstances. That she is here against all odds.
"What makes this a good programme?" I ask her.
"They let me be safe," she says not even taking a moment to think of an answer.
That's all she wants. And when she left, that's what we spent our time talking about. How we give her what she needs. Safety.
There is no greater goal for those in care than that they be safe.
There is no greater purpose for agencies that provide service than that they offer safe haven.
There is no greater promise that we make than safety.
All the rest is gravy.