By Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey
Reflection based on Isaiah 40:1-5
During one Living Well meeting in November, one of our participants showed up on the Zoom call 30 minutes late, overly apologetic and completely flustered. Just 20 hours earlier, and with less than a day’s warning, she had been given notice that she was being transferred to another shelter. And, of course, the forced move couldn’t have been worse timing.
She had just taken her two babies to get their shots that day. She was six weeks post-C-section. And suddenly she’s nursing and caring for her two-year-old while throwing all her things in trash bags so she can be moved.
A global pandemic is trauma for us all. Our orientation to our world has been disrupted, we’re not sure where to find stability, and we feel alone. And the pandemic is also triggering the additional trauma of housing insecurity for the most vulnerable among us. NYC’s homelessness rate is up by 10,000 people, and involuntary shelter transfers are happening constantly. This story from our Living Well group is just one of the too many stories of how we, our city, our systems continue to fail each other.
Yet, in the middle of the darkness, come words of hope. “Comfort, O comfort my people,” says God through the prophet Isaiah. Judah is in exile, living in slavery, torn from their land and family, and stripped of their identity. Their experience in exile overwhelms them with trauma, and they’re not sure where or who their God is anymore.
But God sees and hears them. In fact, as it turns out, God has been right there, carrying the pain and abuse alongside them the whole time. So God breaks through the seeming silence and pours down hope for the exiles and for us.
As the Living Well mom told the group about her latest shelter transfer experience, every single one of the other participants echoed her frustration and encouraged her. They had all been caught in the same situation too. One after another, the other women rallied around her, cried with her, named her as strong and courageous, claimed that what she was experiencing is unjust, told her of how they had witnessed her be an incredible mom, asked what they could do to help, promised to pray and act and do anything they could to change the practice of no-notice transfers. They made sure she knew she is not alone. They made sure she knew she is loved and cared for and has safe space with them.
This pain, this trauma, this unsettling, out-of-control feeling is not the end of the story, God promises. We are not alone. The Light is coming. And even in the middle of the darkness God is with us. Even here we are not alone. Even here we are loved. Even here we can find safety.
And we feel some hope.
Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey is a CBF field personnel serving in New York City alongside Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Learn more about and support her work at www.cbf.net/tommey.