Thursday, December 30, 2010
New Year's Lesson From Trafficked Victims
Ingredients For A Happy New Year
I say it all the time, "I wish you a happy New Year." But what exactly does that mean? The girls from the shelter and I made some discoveries during this Christmas season that stand a good chance to move us forward into more happiness in the coming year.
As Christmas approached, the mood in the shelter turned from one of relative calm to bickering and backbiting. It went something like this:
“It’s not my turn to clean the bathroom and I don’t want to.”
“Iana, she keeps borrowing my clothes…”
“You have all these rules for us because you don’t want us to have any fun…”
“At least when we were with the pimps we got to drink beer and wine and go to the clubs…”
“She keeps putting my things somewhere and I can’t find them…”
They went on and on throughout the afternoon. Their voices rose and the complaining and fighting intensified.
Finally, I’d had all I could take. “STOP IT!” My voice rose above the others. “Just because you’ve been hurt, doesn’t make you the center of the universe.” I lowered my voice slightly. “Come here, I want to show you something.”
I brought an envelope out of my pocket.
“What is she doing? Why is she showing us her mail? Like we care?”
I opened it and pulled out a picture of several attractive girls surrounding a large bin of clothing. Each girl held up an item and smiled at the camera. Their eyes shined, as if they were happy.
“Who are they?” Andrea asked.
“They’re girls from the US.”
“So, what do they have to do with us, why are you showing us that picture?”
“I’m showing you their picture because they collected a lot of stylish clothing that they’re sending to all of you.”
“No, they don’t know you.”
“Then why did they do it?”
“They did it because they heard about you and they wanted to share.”
“Why would they want to share with us if they don’t even know us?”
“The way you’ve been acting, I have no idea.” I turned and left them with the social workers for the rest of the day.
When I arrived the next morning, the house was clean and the girls were sorting through some clothes that had come for them some time back but were put away because they were too big. One girl brought boxes from the closet under the staircase another sorted out the nicest items, yet another girl ironed and a couple of girls neatly folded and placed the clothing into bundles according to size.
I shook my head. “What are you doing?”
“We’ve called the home where the elder people stay. We’re going there tomorrow to take these clothes. The lady on the phone sounded happy that we’re coming.”
I walked toward the back of the house past the living room and on into the kitchen. “What are you baking and where did you get the flour?” I asked the girls as they placed dough onto the baking sheets. I knew we were nearly out when I had left the day before.
“We used our cigarette money. We’re baking sweets and taking them to the orphanage.”
I nearly choked. “What happened to you?”
“We saw the pictures of the American girls and said, ‘If those girls who don't know us and live so far away can do something nice for us, then surely, we can do something for the people we live around. Once we started, it became fun.” Alina smiled up at me and winked. “After all, we’re not the center of the universe, you know.”
As she turned her back to me and placed more dough on the baking sheet, I recognized this moment as one that offered us secure passage into a Happy New Year.