Welcome to this month’s Charity Sunday.
I’ve been thrilled at the great response from other bloggers who’ve joined Charity Sunday over the past few months. It’s always enjoyable for me to see what causes my colleagues choose to support. I’ve noticed that many of you donate to local rather than national or international charities. So today, I thought I’d focus my Charity Sunday on a “local” charity, too: Rosie’s Place.
Rosie’s Place was born when its founder Kip Tiernan saw poor women disguising themselves as men to get a meal at men-only shelters. Think about that. Think about the danger, and the shame.
Rosie’s provides free meals 365 days a year; a food pantry with non-perishable items and fresh produce; showers, laundry and lockers; overnight beds for up to 21 days; and providers who offer health and wellness care. Rosie’s Place also offers job and life skills training, and connects its guests with legal and financial professionals who can help them navigate the complex maze of government assistance programs.
I could say more – but I urge you to go check out the organization's inspiring website. The bottom line? For every comment I receive on today’s post, I’ll donate two dollars to Rosie’s.
I have the perfect excerpt for you, too, from my lesbian tale The First Stone, first published in Cheyenne Blue’s anthology Forbidden Fruit: Stories of unwise lesbian desire and now available as part of my own short story collection, Burn,Baby. This story takes place in a women’s shelter in Boston, not all that dissimilar to Rosie’s, and explores the unlikely relationship between a recovering drug addict and a nun.
“You're kinda pretty, for a nun.”
The voice was low and throaty, laced with echoes of the ghetto. It dragged me away from the columns of figures marching down the screen in front of me, out of the well-ordered realm of accounting and into the messiness of our inmates' lives. Our guests, I corrected myself. Nobody was forced to stay at Serenity House.
“Um — excuse me? Can I help you?”
My interlocutor grinned at me. Her plump, mauve-painted lips framed teeth that were a shocking white in her ebony face. She shook her head. Cheap, brassy earrings dangled from her fleshy lobes, swinging back and forth over her bare shoulders.
“Just wanted to say hi. Oh, an' to ask if I can stay out past curfew tonight. Heard you were in charge.” She extended a hand tipped with hot pink fingernails. “I'm Magnolia. Me and Moonbeam just got here yesterday.”
November in Boston, two weeks before Thanksgiving, but Magnolia's skin felt August-hot. The woman's breasts almost overflowed the sequined tube top that constrained them. Below, she wore baggy sweatpants with a Celtics logo that didn't hide her more than ample curves. Her feet were crammed into open-toed high heels of scuffed gold-toned plastic. She towered over me. I felt pretty sure that would be true even if I were standing.
“Moonbeam?” Confronted by this apparition, I couldn't seem to manage more than a couple of words.
“My kid.” Magnolia indicated a diminutive toddler with kinky pigtails, sprawled on the floor of the common room, surrounded by alphabet blocks. Hard to believe that delicate child was the offspring of this Amazon.
“Ah — um — well, you're very welcome here, Magnolia. We're glad to have you with us.” I struggled for the warm yet professional manner I'd learned to adopt with our guests. Rising from my chair, I gave her hand a firm squeeze before relinquishing it. My skin tingled in the aftermath. I'd been right; she stood half a head taller than my five feet six inches, and probably weighed nearly twice what I did. “Have a seat, please. I'm Sister Kathleen Patrick, the assistant director. But I guess you know that.”
She settled her bottom into the chair I'd indicated. “Yeah, the other gals told me. Pleased to meet you, Sister.” Her plucked eyebrows knotted into a frown. “That what I should call you? I ain't had much experience with nuns.”
Her obvious concern made me chuckle. “'Sister' would be fine. Or you can just call me Kathleen. We don't stand on ceremony here at Serenity House.”
“Not like at Baystate Rehab. You forget to call one of the nurses 'Miz' or 'Mister', you lose privs for twenty-four hours.” She swiped the back of her hand across her brown forehead, which was beaded with sweat. The woman must have a furnace inside.
There was something lush and tropical about Magnolia. Her name fit her. She seemed totally out of place in this shabby office lit by the unrelenting gray of the late autumn sky. I could imagine her wrapped in a rainbow-hued sarong, dancing barefoot on a beach beneath swaying palms. Or swimming naked through the waves under a golden moon...
I hauled my thoughts back to the present. “Is that where you've just come from?” Not all our guests had substance abuse problems, but it was pretty common.
“Escaped is more like it.” She giggled. “This place's like heaven after Bayhab. Six fucking weeks — oh, sorry, Sister — I mean, six long weeks in that hellhole! Away from my baby, too. 'Course, I deserved it. All the junk I pumped into my veins, not thinkin' about who'd care for her if something happened to me. Then the OD — I really fucked up. Oh, I'm sorry, Sister!”
“Never mind. So you've made yourself comfortable, then? You're happy with your room?"
Yesterday had been my day off. Rachel must have done the intake. I reminded myself to check Magnolia's file after she'd left the office.
“It's great. I'm sharing with Lou-Ellen and her little boy. He's only a couple months older than Moonbeam. Food's good, too.” She flashed me another grin and glanced down at her generous body. “Not that I need it!”
Her laughter kindled mine. Our eyes met. Hers were espresso-brown, practically black, fringed with mascara-augmented lashes. They snagged me like magnets.
Something jolted through me — a lightning strike, a sudden storm, some personal earthquake. The floor dropped out from under my chair and I found myself suspended in space. My breath caught in my throat and perspiration soaked the armpits of my gray wool sweater. I'd been chilly before — we tried to stretch our donor's generosity as far as possible — but now I burned. I couldn't tear myself away from her gaze, though I knew I'd been staring far too long.
Magnolia could easily be one of Rosie’s guests.
Please be sure to leave a comment. Every one helps women in need.
And I hope you will visit the other bloggers joining today’s Charity Sunday blog hop. You’ll find links to their posts below.