Stacey Picard has been a volunteer with Friends of Guest House since 2016. Her experience:
I first connected with Friends of Guest House when it kept coming up in conversation with various people not related to each other, and I thought maybe I should pay attention. That was just over a year ago. In the time since, I’ve taught several classes, coached a few of the women one-on-one for job interviews and speaking events, and most recently, I became a mentor.
To walk in the front door at Guest House is to be welcomed into the family, by both the women and the staff. In spite of all that is happening at any given moment in a residential program that houses more than two dozen women, in spite of the myriad details of coordinating meetings, classes, appointments, a stream of volunteers, and an occasional crisis response, there is never a hint of the “transactional” business that is taking place. Instead, it feels like stopping by an old friend’s house.
I once read that “healing” is not to be “cured” of something, but rather to be welcomed fully back into the community. This is the business and the blessing of Guest House. At Guest House, each woman who walks in the door is treated with the same warmth and respect we all hope to receive when we are at our lowest moment.
For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve encountered this simple act of kindness and respect that many of us might easily take for granted. It’s the first time they’ve been seen as fully human, with all the gifts and flaws, and pain and joy, and achievements and mistakes that everyone has.
The challenge at Guest House is not to see the women as worthy of every good thing life has to offer, it’s to help them see it in themselves. And that’s not easy when someone’s sense of self-worth has been shaped by trauma or addiction or experiencing first-hand the for-profit business of prisons in America today. It takes time, and it’s messy, but this is the essential work.
So in my experience, the role of mentoring is not so much about imparting some life lesson or wisdom, or about coaching a specific skill or making progress toward some defined goal or life plan. Those things will happen. It’s really more about meeting them where they are at any given moment. It’s about sitting with them, being fully present and authentic, generously listening without judgement, and gently reminding them, over time, that they are just in the middle of their story, that their conviction is only one event in one point in time, not the defining ending, that they are so much more than their worst mistake and that they are worthy and deserving of a full life.
Because they are.