Community and Gratitude

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed. A stronghold in time of trouble” PS 9:9

Community and Gratitude are two extremely important things in anyone’s life, but especially important in the life of a survivor. Let me explain.

God has built us to flourish in community. When these exist, we know have others who we can depend on and who know us well; we can function like a person who knows their value. However, for the survivor, for those from hard backgrounds (abuse, pain, suffering, rejection, isolation, exploitation, etc). Community is extremely important and difficult to achieve. In many cases (the foster child, the exploited individual, the gang member) that individual has no one, even after they have gone through the most painful parts of the circumstance and healed from their past. They may not know how to form lasting and valuable relationships or they may not feel like they belong anywhere in any community however, this community is critical.

If the individual knew that he or she had worth and made the community a better place; that they mattered to others, then things may seem different to them. However, as it stands they may feel invisible to the entire community (even if that is a faith community). He or she is often on the outside the collective group due to lack of family, lack of support, lack of resources and this may leave them with few options and often at risk once again. However, the greater community {school, faith, neighborhood,etc} can respond.

Furthermore, our backgrounds tell us that this is how we will be treated ( it is often what we were told over and over – no one will ever love you; if anyone ever finds out..) however,  there are ways in which you can respond – reaching out, loving, responding, caring, calling, spending time, etc. This can express to individuals that she/he is worth your time and effort and that you care in tangible ways. Additionally, being in community will communicate that things are different now than they used to be; they are no longer unseen, unheard. One person recently told me ” You are no longer alone” – I can’t express to you in this written formatted the deep place of pain that touched and just by the words and the heart from which it was spoken how much that meant.

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Furthermore, the focus of gratitude is extremely important and a complete shift of focus to someone that lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) of any kind. As a survivor, I can tell you that when you are in the traumatic situation you are trying to get through it moment-by-moment and event-by-event.

There was never a time in my youth did I, on my own think, I should thank God here. It is a simple survival. Now, that we are not in a crisis situation we must take time to thank God for the waves, for the sun, for people who love us, etc. This is a sometimes a sacrifice to be honest, because there has been so much loss, so much pain, so much suffering. However, when one takes the focus off of the suffering, off of the pain and stops to be thankful, for the even the smallest thing it shifts our focus and helps us to see the good in life, in others – even when there seems to be nothing good left.

God will redeem our days, will keep His promises and will do good to us. I do not know how this will work out – I will do my best to keep my gaze upward ( it is a work in process) and it is helping me to be thankful even though life can be very hard.

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