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Pass me not

Pass me not by Violet Cucciniello Little

Draped in a cotton-candy-pink prayer shawl knit especially for her, Robin embodied the love and grace of the God in whose name she had just been baptized. The women and men surrounding and blessing Robin at her baptism were from The Welcome Church, an ELCA congregation without walls, mostly made up of people experiencing homelessness.

Robin now “has her keys” (the word on the street when one gets housing), but her life has not been easy. Born on Friday, the 13th child in a family that clung to superstitions, Robin was told she was cursed and from the seed of the devil. Because Robin so strongly resembled her handsome but much-resented father, Robin’s mother often transferred that resentment to her beautiful baby girl. When Robin was an infant, her mother tried to smother her. The abuse continued until Robin was well into her teens. Today, Robin still bears scars on her legs from scalding water and one eye injured to the point of blindness when she was only 9 years old.

After a gang-rape when she was 17, Robin was told not to press charges against her attackers because she “deserved it.” She began to drink to ease the pain. With the drinking, there were drugs; and to pay for the drugs, there was prostitution.

When I first met Robin, she was living on the street. She came to The Welcome Center, a drop-in center I founded that later gave birth to The Welcome Church. I started the center after I saw a woman in a train station restroom washing up. She was using the broken-down hand blowers to dry her hair. Though I’d seen many other women do the same through the years, something about seeing that woman on that day changed the course of my life.

God opened my eyes. It makes me think of how, after being forced out of Abraham’s household with her young son, Ishmael, Hagar prayed that God might provide them with water in the wilderness that her son might live. God “opened her eyes” and Hagar saw a well of water -- one that had been there all along.

That day at the train station I saw pain but I also saw possibility. What if churches donated space so women might have a place to rest and have a cup of tea?

The Rev. Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, Alaska. She enjoys the Alaskan life with her husband, their two children and her dog. Julia loves approaching everything with child­like wonder, including worship and community service.

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