The other day, I was sitting at our kitchen table with my 5-year-old son, drawing pictures. He said, “Mama, help me draw a picture of my family.” He handed me his paper and some crayons. So, I drew a lovely crayon rendition of myself, my partner, and him. I handed it back, and asked him how I did. He looked at the picture for a minute and looked up at me with an expression that I’m sure many of you who are parents are familiar with—one of puzzlement and exasperation, as if he cannot quite recall why he was assigned me as his mother this time around. He said, “Well, what about the rest?” He took the paper and crayons back and drew ‘the rest’: his dogs and cats, his best friend, his grandmothers and also some surprises—our neighbor down the hill, some of my co-workers who have unofficially adopted him, and one of my long-time friends who took us to the train park once. I thought at the time that there was a lesson in this interaction with him. A couple days later, after I put my son to bed, I cracked open a library book that I was dutifully trying to finish before it was due. This was the quote that leapt off the page: Mother Teresa said, “The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” I finally got the lesson. I drew his family circle too small. There was a myriad of reasons why I did that, both conscious and unconscious, that we won’t get into here. But it was certainly a reminder that I had temporarily lost the awareness that has become the foundation and focus of my work and the work of the staff at Addictions Recovery Center.
I don’t think we need to agree with Mother Teresa’s type of faith or even understand her motivations to get what she was saying. Our clients’ lives are filled with stories of small circles. All too often, our clients’ stories are formed from early trauma-- violence, disconnection, abuse, neglect—that render them unable to even fathom the idea of family circles that go beyond their front doors or families of origin to encompass people in their communities that are safe, trustworthy, and collaborative.
At ARC, I am fortunate to work in an environment that has the foundation for trauma informed care built into its core values—Compassion, Heart, and Integrity, to name a few. So when the opportunity arose to join an exclusive, year-long national learning community of early adopters of trauma-informed care the question wasn’t “Why?” It was “When?” The answer was “Now.”
For the past four months we have been systematically assessing every domain of our agency: our environment, our hiring and performance review practices, our policies, our interactions with clients, our interactions with one another, the use of consumers as expert advisors, data collection, food service, and so on.
A mere 4 months into this year-long commitment, we were able to bring the National Council’s special advisor of Trauma Informed Services to Medford. On August 22nd, one hundred people attended a presentation on Building a Trauma-Informed Community. Twenty-seven different safety-net agencies were represented. People in the room learned that they are in the position of helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community to expand their small circles--to bear witness to their life stories, to give them choices and empower them. The outcome of that meeting was to gather a representative from each of those agencies, and any others who are compelled to learn more, and create a vision of what a trauma-informed county could look like. Cheryl Sharp graciously helped us all begin to draw the circles of our family wider. I invite you to begin as well.
Thank you for visiting our website. Over the last year we have experienced growth in all areas including treatment, counseling, education, and outpatient services. We would like to thank the community for the support over the years and invite you to visit our "What's New" blog post for biweekly updates about what we are doing. Our partnerships make what we do possible. Take a look around and let us know if you have questions. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you.