This holiday season is one of gratitude, warmth, and merriment, all feelings cultivated by being with loved ones and celebrating new and old traditions. One of the great privileges of our safe house communities is being able to welcome human trafficking survivors into these traditions and celebrations. Many of the women in our safe houses have not celebrated holidays of any kind for years, much less been surrounded with love and a sense of security. Their appreciation is eye-opening and renews our own thankfulness every year.
This Monday, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with past and current safe house residents. Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday at the safe houses because of its simplicity: it is all about being with family and cooking delicious food. It’s also an opportunity for the survivors to pour themselves and their love into cooking and baking for a large group of people. Being able to present that food on a beautifully set table, bless it, and pass it around are small joys that cap a special day.
Christmas is another favorite holiday because it incorporates so many fun, community-building traditions and activities for both the survivors and the other community residents. One woman in the safe house community recounted decorating the Christmas tree with everyone, especially since some of the women had never been given a chance to do so. Another recollected the hilarity and joy of making a community gingerbread house: the happy chaos of trying to keep the walls up, the friendly decoration competition, the creativity brought to the table.
New Year’s holds a special significance for the survivors. It’s a delightful opportunity to get dressed up, stay up late, and watch the ball drop, but it’s also a time of great promise. After enduring so many years of horrendous, inhuman conditions, these women can now look to the future with hope.
As we gather around our own tables with family and friends this Thanksgiving, take a moment to share our gratitude for these women in our lives, whose stories of strength and hope remind us what this season is truly about.