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When a suburban girl and a former working girl become friends Рan interview on authentic relationships 

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Today’s interview was conducted by Leroy Lamar, Executive Director of Serenity’s Steps, and highlights the process of building an authentic relationship between Kate, Marketing Manager at Serenity’s Steps, and Megan, our Fundraising Coordinator and former working girl.  

Leroy: Megan, when you first started working for Serenity’s Steps, what expectations did you have about relationships with your co-workers?

Megan: I thought like with any other job; I would see them at work and go home and live my life.

L: Kate, when you first started with Serenity’s Steps, what expectations did you have about developing friendships with men and women in the commercial sex industry?

Kate: I didn’t know what to expect. I had volunteered in urban settings in the past, but never really with enough of a long-term commitment to develop lasting relationships.  I was excited by the prospect of getting to know some of the women, but because I grew up with a very different background, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to build rapport.

 L: How did your relationship with each other begin? How did it feel? What were your first thoughts of the other person?

 M: I initially met Kate at the first paper-making “party” where I became acquainted with the other staff and their families. I was alone so it was very awkward for me, I had so much going on internally but I always want to make great first impressions. My first thoughts after meeting her were that I was very intimidated; although there wasn’t much conversation I think I basically judged the book by the cover, for lack of a better expression.

K: When I first met Megan I actually didn’t know that she had formerly been a working girl.  Leroy told me that he was bringing a young woman he greatly respected for her compassion and willingness to serve others selflessly onto our team.  I met her at a team event, right before we launched That Grace Restored.  In my first few interactions with her, I was immediately struck by how intelligent and well spoken she was.  I found out soon after I met her that she had formerly been in the life, which impressed me all the more.  She defied every stereotype our society has about a working woman, which shows the importance of getting to know a person for who they really are. 

L: When did you realize that your relationship had advanced from being acquaintances to being friends?

 M: The word friend has a deep backstory for me. I have had so many “friends” that have hurt me so much and not even thought twice about it, which is why to a certain extent I am very guarded. When Kate displayed a vulnerable side of herself, sharing secrets that I could obviously tell she would not be comfortable sharing in a group setting, that is when I realized that we were friends. There is never any judgment passed on either side. We pray for each other and keep pushing forward.

K: After meeting, Megan and I have had many opportunities to grow closer through spontaneous lunches, bus stop runs and projects we’ve worked on together.  But what really takes us past being acquaintances to being friends is sharing each other’s burdens – and joys.  Even when she is having a bad day Megan never forgets to ask me how I’m doing.  And because we’re living our lives together, I get to laugh with her as her 3 year old son runs to the door to greet me, offering me some of his lunch.  I feel comfortable sharing my life with her and she opens her life up to include me.

L: What has been the biggest difficulty or challenge you’ve had to overcome in becoming friends?

 M: For me it was letting down my wall. Knowing that Kate knew about my past, for a very long time I was very self-conscious. Always second-guessing and wondering if her kindness was really genuine or if it was just because I was under some “program”.

 K: Sometimes there is a sense of the gap in our worlds. We grew up very differently and faced different obstacles.  I often think that mine pale in comparison to what she perseveres through on a daily basis.  Some days she tells me “It’s hard,” and I can say that I know but really I don’t.  Not like she does.  But we get through it because we respect and love each other. A couple of weeks ago, we had a misunderstanding about a problem that came up at work.  Feelings were hurt unintentionally, but we addressed it head on and talked about it honestly.  We were able to do that because of the foundation of trust we’ve built by doing life together.  Working through that conflict was a special moment for me. 

L: How have you changed since you became friends?

M: I think I have become a better person. My newfound friend thinks very highly of me and doesn’t mind reminding me of that. It makes me want to strive for excellence and keep her proud. Almost like a sister.

K: I am a different person since I became friends with Megan, and I think the change is for the better.  I have been forced to see life through a different lens, step out of my comfort zone and enter into her world.  I’ve learned so much about selflessness and perseverance from her example.  I’ve seen how we are all broken, but we’re all broken together – and when we embrace grace together, we become a community. 

 L: How would you respond to those who say that they could never live like this, in authentic relationship with someone from a different background?

 M: I’d tell them I have never been happier in my life. My job helps me to make better decisions for me and my children even when it hurts and even when it’s hard.

K: I truly believe that if you take the time to intentionally do life with someone from a different background or lifestyle, you will be blessed by the relationship far more than you could imagine.  You not only have the ability to step out of your comfort zone and enter into a relationship with someone you think you have nothing in common with – but you have a calling to do so.  Especially for those of us that are Christians, we are called to love everyone, not just the people that are most comfortable or convenient for us to love.

L: What is your best/ favorite memory so far in your relationship?

 M: There are truly so many. Each time we are able to get together whether it was for business, or just to talk and catch up I am always left with a sense of feeling loved. But my birthday was exquisite. I have never had any friends be so nice to me and make me feel so special. It was the one of our many, great, girls-night-outs and has been my very best birthday to date.

K: Megan creates space for me to be vulnerable. I touched on it in last week’s blog post, but two weeks ago we had a rough day together.  It was emotional, and as we sat in the car together talking about the current struggles in her life, I opened up to her about my internal struggle with intense irrational anxiety.  She received it with such grace, such understanding that I immediately knew I had made the right choice to tell her.  Even as she faced dealing with heavy burdens, she understood that this was my heavy burden.  Fast-forward to this past Saturday, when we were working on a project for together and she could tell my anxiety was bubbling up.  Turning to me she reassured me with straightforward words, a smile and a squeeze of my shoulder. And that was all I needed.  She understood, almost read my mind, and confronted me about it with love and caring.  That’s what true friends do for each other.  

 L: Kate, what would say from your experience is the biggest misconception about these relationships?

 K: The biggest misconception about being in a friendship with someone who has worked in the sex industry, which is really just someone who has had a past filled with hurt and mistakes different from your own, is that you will always be the one supporting them and giving to them.  That’s not true at all.  There are times when I am the one there for her.  There are times when she is the one there for me.  There are times I ask her for advice because she’s been through something in life that I haven’t yet.  There are times where she comes to me with questions about something I’ve experienced and she hasn’t.  It’s a true give and take – a real friendship.  


Living Authentic Relationships – a true story from last thursday

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We pull a U-turn, laughing.  It’s a welcome feeling after the already emotionally charged afternoon.

I don’t know the neighborhood, but I follow Her directions to the modest, brick-faced house on a quiet street in Forest Park.  As we sit waiting for Her “spiritual grandmother”, a close family friend who has known Her nearly all Her life to return from the grocery store, we talk over the events of the day.

We have just come from unsuccessfully trying to visit Her boyfriend at the county jail.  He was in the infirmary again for unknown reasons, and She was worried about him.  Loyal to a fault, She cared for him enough to visit and encourage him even after getting himself arrested again.  She’s always had a big heart.

“I just have to focus on getting everything set for myself and my kids right now.  I know he’ll be ok and hopefully this is what he needs to evoke some change,” She tells me.  “But I can’t put myself on hold for him.”  I nod my affirmation.  She is calmer now, and I see the fighter in Her emerge.  

As she speaks from her heart about her struggles, I gain courage to do the same.  I open up.  I tell her about the anxiety I’ve struggled with since I was young, and which intensified during college.  I confess the times I can’t stop worrying, even over things so obviously trivial, and how it keeps me from living to my full potential.  

Without hesitation, She nods Her sympathy and understanding.  “I’ll pray for you.” Outwardly, our burdens are so different, but inside, we know the pain of being broken people in an imperfect world.  We pledge together to support one another, and urge each other to trust the Lord.

Her grandmother pulls up and we jump out of the car.  She introduces me as her friend, and my heart warms.

After hauling some old suitcases and toys for the kids out of Granny’s shed, we bid her goodbye and head for her house.  The kids are eagerly awaiting her return.  We lug the suitcases inside; She is bursting with excitement.  She pulls out pile after pile of old photos from her childhood.  We sit on the floor of Her house.  “Look at this one, look at my hair back then, oh my gosh!” She exclaims, thrusting the picture at me.  I smile as I look at Her as a young girl, sassy as ever, destined to be the brave woman She has become.  

I study Her face, the worry of the day forgotten, replaced with the joy of happy memories.  I am sharing this moment with her, and in this instant, I know this is what it’s all about.  This is authentic relationship.  This is us viewing each other in our entirety.  I see my need just as I see Her’s, and I know that I need Her to be there for me just as much as She needs me to be there for Her.  We’re intentionally doing life together. The goal is real friendship, and we have it.  

Contributed by Kate McGaughey, PR and Marketing Manager at Serenity’s Steps. 



What are authentic relationships?

At Serenity’s Steps and That Grace Restored, we seem to throw around the term “authentic relationships” as naturally as if we were downing a glass of cool water on a sweltering Atlanta summer day.  It’s easy when you get in a let’s-get-this-done mindset to casually use language that once held such deep, treasured meaning to your mission.  

The early stages of developing an efficient, mission-true non-profit are not easy.  There are late nights, early mornings, countless meetings with potential donors and volunteers, new “brilliant” ideas that end up being crossed off the list and tiny afterthoughts that end up being developed into integral pillars of practice.  And oh yeah, the authentic relationships that started all of this.

As we enter a new season, literally – it’s almost summer in Atlanta and the humidity has begun to set in, and figuratively – we’re enacting some internal changes within That Grace Restored that allow for more collaborative development with the help of volunteers and pursuing our communal safe housing option for Serenity’s Steps, we are revisiting what it means to truly be in authentic relationship.

Dignity Serves defines authentic relationships this way:

“Authentic relationships are those in which we are willing to be helped by those we sacrificially serve.”

Executive Director Leroy Lamar expounds on that definition with his own thoughts as to how we at Serenity’s Steps/That Grace Restored view our call to be in relationships with one another and with our women:

“Authentic relationships are those in which both persons view the other in their entirety. The helper doesn’t just see the area of need in the other. The one being helped doesn’t view the other as just the source of help. They both realize they both have needs and they can both help. The goal is real friendship and not friendship based on some other objective.”

As we interact with the women we serve, we keep in mind that they are more than their current situation, their past, their struggles, their failures or even their successes.  They are whole people, just as we are, and because of this, our relationships must be holistic.  We cannot stop at offering housing or employment and say “I’ve done enough.”  We must be their family as well.  In the same way, we cannot allow our willingness to welcome them into our lives be a source of pride, we must ask ourselves constantly “What can I learn from Her? What is She offering me that is blessing me just as much as I pray I am blessing Her?” 

Last week you read on this blog the story of a young woman with whom we worked who desperately needed the love and support of a family.  Her story could be that of any of the women you see standing on a street corner a mile south of Turner Field.

We are all broken people, saved only by grace. We all have intrinsic worth, defined by God. It is through authentic relationships that our worlds collide and we are daily made new together.  With whom will you foster an authentic relationship today?