It was a spectacular California early October Autumn day on the Central Coast: blue sky painted with whisps of cloud, sparkling water tracing the carved coastline, and just enough of a bite in the air to break out a jacket. Actually, this was a dress-up day, so the jacket was a pale silk leopard print, the skirt was leather and the shoes were high heels. Why the fancy duds? Today was High Tea in Santa Barbara, something I’d been looking forward to, something we’d planned for months.
There was an interesting twist in this plotline, however. The charity we’d been working with supports families to prevent homelessness and welfare dependency, especially in a tough economy. They run a most remarkable facility called the Unity Shoppe and its one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever toured. But about two weeks ago, Unity got word that another local charity was also hosting a long-planned event; a high tea, on the same day, at the same time.
The other charity was Domestic Violence Solutions, an organization that also does tremendously important work in the community. Why risk pulling necessary support away from them? Why pit one worthy cause against another? Why not declare we have room in our hearts to help both situations? Wouldn’t it be phenomenal to heal both issues?
Ultimately we decided to choose a new date for our Unity Shoppe event: February 12, right before Valentine’s day—a perfect time to celebrate my new “Heart” book. (We’ll send all the details closer to the event!) In our public statement we notified our audience of the new date—but we also suggested they attend the other charity’s event. And then we took our own advice. We all attended the Domestic Violence Solutions tea—me, a board member, the Marketing Chair, and the Director. It was a joy and a privilege to be there, and we were welcomed by all the leaders of DVS.
Domestic violence is an issue I’ve cared about for many years. My dear friend Erin Gray and I have served on boards or advisory boards of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV); Haven House in Los Angeles (the oldest shelter for battered women in the U.S.) We’ve hosted galas, written and delivered over fifty speeches, one of which was heard in Congress, and earned several public service awards. Through these efforts we began to learn something about this issue, and have rejoiced to see a gradual shift in the public awareness, away from blaming the victim, and toward healing the underlying anger that can lead to horrific abuse and even to death. Now I write about the issue in one of the storylines in my novels.
Issues like these are insidious. It sometimes seems the more we work on them, the worse the statistics. The “DV” non-profits around the country track the number of reported assaults and homicides, the recidivism rates, the shame and fear that haunt victims who seem unable to break away from their abusers. Meanwhile the non-profits trying to help families drowning in debt, desperate for jobs, and hanging on by a thread report terrifyingly huge numbers of people who seem to be slipping over the edge into insolvency. And to compound both issues, tough financial times often trigger a rise in abusive behavior.
Tracking these numbers and committing to making a difference—the kind of commitment lived by the Santa Barbara District Attorney who was the keynote speaker—is inspiring and vital. For the good of all, it’s intelligent to have a vigorous program like hers in place, so we might say it’s a matter of the head. And ultimately to succeed, what we also must do is look at these issues from the heart.
Neither victim nor perpetrator is beyond the scope of infinite Love. And just a tiny fragment of that kind of love can transform a human heart the way a shaft of light transforms a dark room into a space glowing with illumination. What is it worth to hear a victim say she (or he) has found freedom and a fresh start in life? And what is the value of hearing a perpetrator say he (or she) recognizes his or her error? So long as we maintain the “negatives” in our collective consciousness, they will continue to produce the “scarey movies” in our lives. What would happen if we opened the back of the camera and exposed the film (if you’ll forgive an old-technology metaphor)? The negatives can no longer produce any prints.
So take up the battle in your own community—if you haven’t already done so—for whatever cause attracts your attention and won’t leave you alone. But let your heart be your guide, for it can lead us to synergy, to transformation, and to supporting others. That’s the wisdom of what the heart knows.
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