By Jane Friday, Guest BloggerJuly 1, 2015
The more I heard about The Woman’s Room, the more interested I became. The Women’s Room (TWR) is a daytime shelter for women who are homeless or at risk. My mother has been volunteering there for the past 7 years, but it wasn’t until last year that I was finally struck by the importance of it all. I instinctively knew that I had to be a part of it. My belief in the women helping women formula needed action. I had talked the talk long enough.
My picture of a homeless person was formed by Dickensian novels, modern media, and the street people that fervently said, “God bless you” when I emptied change into their cups. It was either that or the opposite; the ones with the crazed eyes, screaming at nothing. My idea that homeless women were either timid, side-stepping, beggars, or unpredictable madwomen was embarrassingly narrow-minded. I may have felt compassion and a longing to help in my heart, but I was also incredibly ignorant.
Of course, these women couldn’t be divided into only two limited categories. After all, they’re complex people. TWR is brimming with every personality type you can imagine.
It doesn’t take long before you stop seeing the homeless woman across from you as the “other,” and begin to see how alike you truly are.
The guests come from a colorful array of backgrounds and span multiple races and religions. Homeless women face rape, robbery, beatings, and arrest if they sleep in the wrong doorway or on the wrong corner. Yet, you find women filled with love, humor, kindness, and grace.
I quickly learned that there was no one way to do things perfectly. I have made mistakes, and I will make more. Give a gift of bath supplies to a woman that has no running water and you’ll certainty hear from her about it. I’ve be asked how I could be so insensitive. Not everyone was grateful or even liked me. I was seen by some as military police for saying, “It’s only one sandwich per person until everyone has had one.”
I wasn’t in it for the gratitude or adulation; I didn’t believe in that. However, if I am being brutally honest, some part of me expected to receive it from these women. It was a powerful life lesson in how silly expectations of the outcome can be. Not expecting it, and realizing I don’t need, it has brought me so much joy in this work.
There are more hits than misses. Life stories are a powerful gift we pass around. Many of these women and I have become friends, talking about everything from our cats to our greatest fears. We are all women in this crazy world and that simple fact bonds us. At TWR we are a tribe. When I help to restore someone’s dignity, I am able to better respect myself. Help to instill a woman with self-respect, and she will return the favor. Through showing her love you will grow to love yourself more.
Taking the plunge into charity work has forever changed me. I have such an exciting journey of humanitarian work ahead of me, but at this time what I can offer you is this: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When we make mistakes we get humble, and when we get humble, we are open wide to take in lessons. Finding that your assumptions were humiliatingly wrong will make you wiser. Celebrate other women. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Have you ever been humbled by a mistake or misjudgment you've made? What did you learn? How do you celebrate ALL the women around you? Tell us below!
Jane is a singer, actress, writer, feminist, and activist. Her life is dedicated to performing and humanitarian work. Jane is a self proclaimed nerd and when she isn't working she can be found obsessing over various fandoms; after all, cool is overrated. Jane is honored to be a guest blogger for I Am That Girl, and believes that women empowering each other is paramount. She can be found tweeting under the handle @itsjanefriday.
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